Some Thoughts on Faith and Resolutions

“See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland.” (Isaiah 43:19)

January 1st means resolutions abound. Holiday feasting over, many flock to gyms and health coaches in hopes forming workout habits; others restock the fridge with healthier choices. These goals and life changes are worthwhile. Most, however, will fail within the first few weeks. The truth is, while many people see value in making positive life changes, fewer are willing or know how to make those new habits long-lasting.

As a pastor, I notice similar trends in the spiritual lives of people in our communities. I constantly hear phrases like:“Oh, I’d really love to get back to church,” “It’s been too long, maybe I should start worshipping again,” or “I’ve always wanted to join a Bible Study, but just never got around to it.” And just like a well-intentioned New Year’s Resolution, many people who want to jumpstart their faith never do. Some make an earnest attempt for a few weeks and simply fall back into other patterns of behavior and other priorities.

Wikicommons

Wikicommons

This article is not a criticism of those who fail to follow through with their spiritual development! I fall short constantly of my own aspirations. You see, I believe that God longs for all of us to regularly grow in faith, and I am convinced that following Jesus is not a temporary fad but a lifelong commitment. The Apostle Paul likened Christian life to a long-distance athletic training (1 Corinthians 9:27). Sometimes faith and faith priorities come easy, and other times the struggle feels exhausting. Here is the wonderful thing, though: the eternal prize of knowing Jesus Christ is worth all the effort (1 Corinthians 9:24)!

So how about a New Year’s Resolution recommendation from Pastor Ryan? Commit to Connecting to God through worship, Growing in faith through small group study, Serving in Christ-like ministry, and Going to tell others about Jesus. Here are a few simple goals to stepping up the game in 2017.

Worship: If you struggle to attend worship every week, challenge yourself or your family to go one additional day each month. So, if you aren’t attending somewhere regularly, resolve to make it once a month. If you go mostly three Sundays a month, try to stretch to that fourth one.

Study: If Bible Study is a struggle maybe your hurdles have been too large. Try leaving your Bible on the kitchen table and reading a few passages with your bowl of cereal. Don’t know where to start? Give Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, Proverbs, or Psalms a go.

Prayer: Do you want to be a stronger “prayer warrior?” Take out that smart phone and schedule in your prayer time. Set an alarm. Color code it. Then when the alarm goes off, take a quick retreat to a quiet spot, and have a few moments with God in prayer.

Plastic surgeon Maxwell Maltz proposed in the 1960s that new habits take 21 days to form. Newer research from a college in London suggests that new habits need more than two months to form (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/james-clear/forming-new-habits_b_5104807.html)! If you want to create new spiritual habits, do not be discouraged. The processwill take work and will take effort. But the effort is always worth it. And don’t be discouraged if you miss the mark on your goals. Take a deep breath, write down some new goals, and try again next month. God is faithful, and I believe that Jesus will bless every attempt we make to deep our relationship with him.

Post Election Message

Note: The following message comes from the sermon I preached on November 13th, 2016. To say that the 2016 Presidential Election has been contentious is an understatement. Violence erupted from out of numerous urban protests in the wake of the election, including on in Portland; meanwhile, other news sources report daily waves of harassment based on race or sexual orientation. Without condoning or seeking to justify any of these behaviors, all reactions to the electoral outcome suggest that many have been very emotionally invested in the campaigns and campaign results. Violence is perhaps the least constructive way to negotiate the emotional aftermath of November 8, 2016. The following reflection is an attempt to link one of Christianity’s primary theological resources (the Bible) to our election reactions. I am in no way suggesting that we should hold on to all of these emotions, especially in the long-term. However, for those who are happy, lost, or worried, it might simply be helpful to know how the Bible can calm our nerves, speak to our passions, and return us to the truth that: no matter who is president, Jesus is King.

          A single life event can evoke a wide variety of emotional responses from a group of people. I first said “Yes” to God’s call to enter professional ministry after attending a large Christian conference in the summer of 2003. Me, I was hyped; I wanted to tell everyone: “Hi, I’m going into ministry!” Happy though he was, my pastor at the time reminded me to slow down and be sure the calling was real. My parents’ voices were very supportive, but also approached from different angles. Mom expressed her unconditional love and support for the choice, as well as the motherly worry over the stresses such a life would bring me. Dad, too, was overwhelmingly supportive, but pragmatically encouraged me to pursue a practical field in college in order to keep all my options open.

          A single life event can lead to a wide variety of emotional responses from a group of people. We’ve had one such life event throughout this divisive week. For one moment early Wednesday morning, November 9th 2016, one hundred different feelings have welled up in hundreds of individuals in our neighbor-hoods and those across the U.S. Ecclesiastes 3:4— a time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance,”—reminds us that all of life’s emotions have appropriate expression.

          On this day, as God’s children and ambassadors, we ought to acknowledge that the election results have impacted all of us differently; moreover, none of us have the monopoly on how others should feel. We are called to “Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave [us]” (Ephesians 4:32). Our mission is not to judge whose motives or feelings are most valid (for we cannot); our mission is to love all persons with compassion and empathy.

My thoughts today are to provide all of us with a small library of Scriptures, to provide hope and comfort for any emotions that are alive in you this week. I want to be clear, this message is not an endorsement or denigration of any candidate. By suggesting that some of us are happy or sad, or lost or angry, I do not believe that we must have these feelings after the election. Because I believe that God is and always will be firmly in control of this world, my hope is that no one becomes inconsolably despondent or fearful. I believe that the Bible speaks truth into our lives, and the verses below are offered as a help to those who want to be reminded of God’s faithfulness and power (Psalm 25:10).

It is OK to feel relief that your candidate won, or support for the policies you championed. A word of caution, though, to beware the temptation of pride. Here are some verses to remember while prioritizing compassion for others. Philippians 4:5: “Let your reasonableness be known to everyone; the Lord is at hand.” Romans 12:3 “Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the faith God has distributed to each of you.”

          It’s OK to be struggling with feelings of fear, anxiety, or worry toward the future. Some of us battle these emotions all the time, election season or no. Take the following verses to heart in light of God’s faithfulness, and remember that God does not desire for us to live in fear for the future. 1 John 4:18 “There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.” Philippians 4:6 “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. Psalm 46:1 “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.”

It’s OK, too, to feel cast off, hurt, or ignored. In times of division it can appear as if no one thoughtfully hears what we are saying. Listen to these verses and remember that Jesus was rejected and that God has always used the underdog and the outcast for holy purposes. God’s not done with you yet and is waiting to heal all of your life’s wounds: Psalm 34:18 “The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.” John 14:18 “I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you.” Psalm 147:3 “[God] heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds.”

How about anger? Yes, it is OK to grapple with anger and perhaps to be angry at the election results. While this emotion is not inherently sinful (remember Jesus in the Temple courts), as people of faith we must be prayerful and mindful of our reactions. I would encourage that feelings of anger be turned toward positive political involvement. In this way we can tap into God’s surpassing peace (Philippians 4:7) and avoid shame of inflicting violence on others. Romans 12:9 “Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord.” Ephesians 4:26-27 “In your anger do not sin”: Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, and do not give the devil a foothold.” Proverbs 25:21-22 “If your enemy is hungry, give him food to eat; if he is thirsty, give him water to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head, and the Lord will reward you.”

Finally, it’s OK to express feelings of being lost, being confused, or simply being worn out. If I can reiterate any message from the previous weeks, let me say: Jesus is still king, and God is still in control. Hand your burdens, even the burdens of this election, over to God. Tomorrow is a new day, and God is ready to provide rest. Deuteronomy 31:8 “The LORD himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged.” Matthew 11:28 “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” Romans 8:28 “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.”

One more pertinent passage from Psalm 121:1-2: “I lift up my eyes to the mountains— where does my help come from? My help comes from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth.” A just, loving society is not born of a political affiliation but of people who know in their bones that kindness is a daily choice. Put your trust in eternal things, and undertake the most Christ-like of callings: “But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you” (Matthew 5:44).

A Big Thank You from Pastor Ryan and Family

The following is a direct excerpt from the October Newsletter, however, I’ve decided I’d also like to publish it directly to the Pastor’s Blog:

“So then, there remains a Sabbath rest for the people of God, for whoever has entered God’s rest has also rested from his work as God did from his. Let us, therefore strive to enter that rest, so that no one may fall by the same sort of disobedience.” (Hebrews 4:9-11, ESV)

From August 29th through September 25th, my wife Linsey, my son Beckett, and I received an incredible gift. By the approval of the Conference Cabinet, the awareness of Watsontown UMC’s Pastor-Staff Parish Relations Committee (P/SPRC), and the diligent commitment of leaders within our church, I received the gift of paternity leave. Culturally in the U.S. paternity leave is still stigmatized. While 89% of men agree that employers should offer paid paternity leave, only 9% of American companies offer paid leave to fathers; moreover, fathers—for various reasons—typically only take one day off to bond with newborn children for every MONTH that a mother takes in leave (statistics from theBump.com). I mentioned these numbers primarily out of gratitude for the opportunity, so willingly offered, to bond with my son Beckett over the last four weeks.

How has leave blessed our family? My wife and I have had the opportunity to spend more time together in September than we have in most other months of our nearly two years of marriage; through quality time and conversation we’ve been able to live into the Scriptural prescription to love, respect, and submit to each other (Ephesians 5:33). We’ve blessed God for the chance to watch Beckett grow. We’ve seen his smiles, heard his laughs, and have begun to set routines and foundations for healthy, godly family life. What can we say but that we dearly, dearly love this person whom God was forming even before July 12, 2016 (Jeremiah 1:5). Finally, we have also had time to rest. Leave has been for me a Sabbath, a time to renew and recharge in the love and grace of God. The Lord wills a rest for us who are in Christ (Hebrews 4:9), and we all do well to seeks moments to renew our souls on a regular basis.

If you have been following Christian news circuits you may have heard of two megachurch pastors (Pete Wilson of Cross Point Church and Perry Noble of NewSpring) who recently resigned their posts due to burnout. As a pastor I empathize with their professional struggles, yet I know, too, that everyone struggles with exhaustion and overwork. For some reason, our culture has made coffee, late nights, and overtime badges of honor rather than family time, work-life balance, and meaningful leisure. The writer of Hebrews provides a stark reminder that rest is a godly thing! Time away is God-honoring! And if we want to call ourselves disciples of Jesus Christ, if we want to follow in his footsteps, maybe many of us need to rethink our calendars and schedule more Sabbath and less “Sorry-Honey-I’m-going-back-to-the-office.” I mean literally. Go home, get out the pen, and write in “REST.”

So once again, Linsey, Beckett and I are grateful to God and to you all for the gift of leave and Sabbath. We believe our family is closer, more loving, and stronger because of the time we had together. We are also so very excited for you to meet the little guy! The family of God is made up of all kinds: old, young, big, small, male, female, all different colors. Praise God for new life and all of the great spiritual blessings that God showers on us every single day (Ephesians 1:3).14457532_10211054843911837_2019822138358050638_n

New Sermon Audio Now Available!

Hello everyone!

We are excited to announce that we are almost all caught up on uploading past Sermon Audio! We value the opportunity to provide you with the ability to listen to Pastor Ryan’s (and others’) messages while you’re traveling, when you’re unable to join us on Sunday mornings, or if you’d simply like to listen again.

Check out our SoundCloud.com Recent Sermons playlist for newly uploaded sermons!

Where Kids Always Matter

The media is rife right now with hashtags, protests, and cardboard signs about whose lives matter. This is not our attempt to provide more political vitriol to the conflagration; nevertheless, at Watsontown UMC, we believe that Kids Matter. Big kids, little kids, girl kids, boy kids, old kids, young kids. Luke 18:16 states “Jesus said, ‘Let the all the children come unto me.'” Jesus valued the presence of children in the community of faith. Their perspective, their enthusiasm, their joy, their gifts and talents are all essential to a vital faith family. Youth ministries guru Kenda Creasy Dean said from the puplit of Kingston United Methodist Church that the presence of children, youth, and young adults in the life of the church is an important marker of health and vitality.

With that segue in mind, here are some of the many ways we want to lift up the ministries of children and youth in worship at Watsontown UMC in August and September.

AUGUST 14: This is our blessing of the back packs Sunday. School age young people are encouraged to bring their back packs full of school supplies to worship (that means you too college kids!). During worship, we will pray over and bless the back packs, as well as the students, teachers, and administrators who will be returning to school. If a child you know is in need of a back pack, we do have several that we can also provide.

AUGUST 21: On the third Sunday of August, we will hold our annual church family picnic. Unlike years past, this picnic will take place at Montour Preserve at 3PM. We have scheduled Heron Cove A Pavilion for the event. This is a great opportunity for kids to get out and…be kids. Families are asked to bring a dish to share as well as their own place settings. Visit www.facebook/watsontownumc to find our event page.

AUGUST 28: This Sunday is WUMC’s official Rally Sunday. That means we will be kicking off Sunday School for the 2016-2017 school year. Sunday School age children and youth are invited to come at 9:15AM for the kick-off celebration. At the 10:30 service, young people stick around to play the bucket drums for worship.

September 25: On September 25th, kids will help lead worship through song at 10:30. Rehearsal time will be 9:50AM on Sundays through September. Come on out and share your talents with the congregation.

Kids in Worship

The Summer’s Not Over Yet!

Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters, since you know that you will receive an inheritance” (Colossians 2:23-24).

We’ve been having a busy summer at Watsontown United Methodist Church! Here is a snapshot of many of the ways we hope you’ve been connecting with us (and even more importantly, seeking to connect with Jesus Christ).

1) Every weekday since school let out, volunteers from Watsontown UMC have made the Watsontown Memorial Park their home. The Kids Cafe outreach serves a free meal all children and youth who show up to eat. You can find these volunteers, kids, and families chilling out by one of the pavilions from 11:00 am to 12:30 pm. No one is turned away. How blessed we have been, too, for the partnership of the Hoeganaes Corporation and Watsontown’s First National Bank who have given of their own time to serve. This program will continue until the beginning of the school year.

2) The Watsontown UMC’s 5th Annual Blueberry Festival has come and gone. Food, vendors, games, a bounce house, model trains, and scouting stands took center stage as our congregation opened its doors for a summer community event. Sincere and heartfelt thanks go out to the Blueberry Festival Planning Committee under the leadership of Faith Hoover and Melinda Pick for another successful event. Be ready to mark your calendars for next year as the blueberries keep coming back!

3) Another GoFishGuys Vacation Bible School went out with a literal splash! What better way to conclude a week-long journey of singing God’s praise, dancing, reading the Bible, and growing in faith than to invite the Warrior Run Fire Department to hose down three “lucky” fundraisers. Mission efforts for the Wounded Warriors, Warrior Run Fire Department, and 2017 Vacation Bible School raised over $1,000. Way to go! But the greatest gifts of the week cannot be bought or counted; so we pray for all of the children who drew close to God over the week. We are also grateful for the work of the VBS Committee and for chairperson Camy Brungard’s leadership to touch the lives of community young people!

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But the Summer is not done yet! Below is glimpse of what we have planned as August rolls around and families prep to go back to school.

  • You are invited to Worship @ the Campfire every Thursday at 7:30PM until Labor Day. The fire ring has even had a face-lift!
  • You are invited to a Blessing of the Backpacks on August 14 at 8am and 10:30am worship services. Children are asked to bring their back packs full of school supplies to be blessed and prayed over. If you know someone who might need a back pack, call the church office.
  • You are invited to a Church Picnic on August 21 at 3PM. This year, the location will be Montour Preserve, Heron’s Cove A Pavilion. This will be a pot-luck event so you are encouraged to bring a dish to share. Worship services will be held as normal that morning.

No matter what your summer holds, don’t forget to make time for you and God, and God’s Spirit in you. You are loved by the people of the Watsontown United Methodist Church.

Pastor Ryan

Beacon Newsletter: July 2016

July. Sunny, humid, vacation-worthy. One of Pennsylvania’s warmest months is also the busiest summer season at Watsontown United Methodist Church. To help you plug in to the church you love, we’ve published the July Newsletter to keep you abreast of all the happenings. Click –>HERE<– to learn more. Here are a few highlights.

2016 Blueberry Fest Logo

Watsontown UMC’s 5th Annual Blueberry Festival kicks off on July 9th, 2016 at 9AM. Don’t miss all the fun; the multipurpose room will house tons of vendors displaying crafts, gifts, foodstuffs, and more. Our own kitchen crew will be making blueberry delights around the clock. This year’s kid zone features a bounce house, noodle obstacle course, pony ride, barrel train, and ring toss.

VNS2016

After you’ve had your fill of food and community fun, Watsontown UMC invites you back to campus on July 10th. We’d love to worship God together at either of our two services (8:00am and 10:30am). In the evening, we’ll keep the energy going with Vacation Bible School: “Kickin It Old School.” Dance along to the catchy, worshipful tunes of the GoFish Guys and crack open a Bible together as we discover God’s love and truth for the 21st century.

–Pastor Ryan

Refresh and Renew

If no one else, the hungry husbands and children know that tonight, many of the women in our congregation are gathering for the first evening of WUMC’s yearly women’s retreat. For a third year running, our godly women have joined for three days of prayer, Bible study, relaxation, good food, good company, and godly company. It would not be a stretch to suggest that they are even following Jesus’ own example, who took very purposeful time to escape from the demands of daily life and spend time with our Heavenly Parent (Mark 1:35, Luke 5:16).

When the opportunity arises, I could hardly be more supportive of going on an intentional prayer and spiritual retreat. Years ago, one of my Formation Seminary classes took a three-day prayer retreat to a convent of Jesus and Mary in southern New York. I had never been on a retreat before where the primary purpose was quiet prayer time. I was skeptical about what I would get out of the experience and whether I could “make it” for so long. Truthfully, I desperately needed a spiritual escape. The demands of my final seminary year were crushing me, and as I sat at the retreat during the first several prayer times, I could actually sense how tense my limb and heart muscles had become over the last semester. By the end of the our time with the nuns, I felt as if my heart had unraveled like a ball of yarn; I felt calm and collected, connected to Jesus more deeply than I had in ages.

So, my friends, would you joinme in a moment as WE pray for our grandmothers, mothers, sisters, aunts, nieces, daughters, granddaughters, and all of the other women who are on the WUMC Women’s Retreat? Father God, our most loving parent, you desperately yearn for us to have a spiritually rich and abundant life. You desire that we would be free from the chains of sin and trust completely in your grace. As the women of WUMC find rest in nature, in prayer, in the Scriptures, in each other, and in You most of all, we pray that the tensions and frustrations of their world would melt away. We pray for the families and friends who love them; and we pray for all women everywhere, for the trials and struggles they face day-to-day. Oh God of peace, be our calm and quiet, and unshakable center. We pray in the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.

Share this prayer with anyone you believe will join in, and in so doing we can cover these women in many prayers. An Men, though it were impossible for us to join the ladies this weekend, speak up in the comments below if you think we should have our own retreat in the near future!?

Jesus Christ is still
Risen,
Pastor Ryan Krauss

Church Conference 2-28-2016

Hello everyone,
For two Sundays (since 2/14), we have been issuing a notice that, at the conclusion of the 10:30AM worship service on February 28, Watsontown UMC will have a church conference to discuss the terms of a lease that has been drafted between our congregation and Kingdom Kidz, Inc. The lease is put forward by the Board of Trustees and has been drafted for us by Attorney Tom Boop of Sunbury.

A church conference (discussed in Paragraph 248 of the Book of Discipline) is a formal business meeting called to address matters of business related to the congregation. For a church conference, all persons who are professing members of the congregation are eligible to vote on the matter at hand. Because I have been asked, I also want to note that there is no “age requirement” when voting and participating in a church conference; any teenager who has completed confirmation and is a member of the church has equal say and vote during the proceedings as other adult members.

The following is a –> LINK <– to the proposed lease.

As pastor, I am delighted that the 3rd Street Property has been in use for the last year, and has been utilized by an organization with a mission similar to our own: to make disciples for Jesus Christ. Please come out to this week’s church conference and offer your voice to the conversation.

Blessings,
Pastor Ryan T. Krauss

Today at WUMC

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