Pastor Paul Burris's Memo

March, 2024

From Pastor Paul,

This is a story I received via email and thought I’d share it with you.

Bibs or Aprons?

I recently visited a fast-growing church in Minnesota to learn from their staff. It was a privilege to witness their passion for doing high quality ministry in Jesus' name. I left with some new insights and renewed passion for the Gospel.
 
One of the phrases that I heard while I was there was, "We want our members to wear aprons, not bibs." Here's what they meant:
 
Bibs are for people who only want to be fed.
Bibs are for those who are not yet ready or willing to feed themselves.
Bibs are for those who are more interested in being served than in serving.
Bibs are for those who insist that the church exists for them and their needs.
Bibs are for babes in the faith, those who haven't caught God's vision for the church, or those who are not yet of the faith.
 
Aprons are for those who have a heart to serve others in Jesus' name.
Aprons are for those who know that they are the church.
Aprons are for those who don't mind getting their hands dirty.
Aprons are for those who take the time daily to feed their spiritual hunger.
Aprons are for those who are growing in faith, and hunger to help others grow.
 
Church growth consultant, Win Arn, interviewed thousands of Christians in America several years ago and asked them, what they though the church existed for. Eighty-eight percent said, "The church exists to serve my needs and the needs of my family." In other words, 88% of Christians in America are still wearing bibs.
 
On the night when he was betrayed, just hours before he was crucified, the very Son of God took off his outer garments, wrapped a towel around his waist, and washed his disciples'
feet. When he was done he said, "I have just given you an example to follow." In other words, Jesus called his disciples to wear aprons, not bibs.
 
In Matthew, Jesus is recorded as saying, "For even I, the Son of Man, came here not to be served but to serve others, and to give my life as a ransom for many." He also said, "If you cling to your life, you will lose it; but if you give it up for me, you will find it."
 
Jesus calls us to wear aprons, not bibs. Which are you wearing?
Bringing It Home:
 
1. How would you answer the question, "Why does the church exist?" Does your answer reflect your bib or your apron?
2. How can you help others in your Christian community to trade their bib for an apron?
3. If you're not already serving in a ministry in your church, make a commitment to begin this month.
 
"For even I, the Son of Man, came here not to be served but to serve others, and to give my life as a ransom for many."
Matthew 20:28
 
Prayer: "Lord Jesus, thank you for feeding me daily with your word. Fill me with your redeeming love. Open my eyes to clearly see the needs of those around me, and then open my hands to serve them. Each day, strengthen me with your Spirit, so that I might choose to wear an apron, not a bib. This I pray in your name. Amen."           ~Author Unknown~
 

In Christ Service,

Pastor Paul



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January, 2024

From Pastor Paul,

Why Go to Church?

A Church goer wrote a letter to the editor of a newspaper and complained that it made no sense to go to church every Sunday. "I've gone for 30 years now," he wrote, "and in that time I have heard something like 3,000 sermons. But for the life of me, I can't remember a single one of them. So, I think I'm wasting my time, and the pastors are wasting theirs by giving sermons at all."

This started a real controversy in the "Letters to the Editor" column, much to the delight of the editor. It went on for weeks until someone wrote this clincher:

"I've been married for 30 years now. In that time my wife cooked some 32,000 meals. But, for the life of me, I cannot recall the entire menu for a single one of those meals. But I do know this. They all nourished me and gave me the strength I needed to do my work. If my wife had not given me these meals, I would be physically dead today. Likewise, if I had not gone to church for nourishment, I would be spiritually dead today!" When you are DOWN to nothing.... God is UP to something! Faith sees the invisible, believes in the incredible and receives the impossible! Thank God for our physical and our spiritual nourishment! (Email forward from unknown author)

It is my prayer that over the course of the past year that our worship services and my messages have in some way provided you with the spiritual nourishment you have needed in your daily lives. It is also my prayer that in the coming year you will make an attempt to be a part of worship here at Calvary United Methodist Church. Church is not only a place where we come for our spiritual nourishment. Church is also a place where we come to be a part of the family of God. Church is a place where God’s plans can be worked out through a group of believers with a common cause. Church is a place where God’s love is on display weekly as we find new and unique ways to minister to, not only one another, but to others. Church is the physical body of Christ in action.

I would like to personally thank all of you for your role in making Calvary United Methodist Church a vital part of this community. You are truly a blessing and I pray that God will bless you as much this coming year as He has my family and I in 2023. See You Sunday!

In Christ Service,

Pastor Paul



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December, 2023

From Pastor Paul,

Luke 9:18-20 18 Once when Jesus was praying in private and his disciples were with him, he asked them, “Who do the crowds say I am?” 19 They replied, “Some say John the Baptist, others say Elijah; and still others, that one of the prophets from long ago has come back to life.” 20 “But what about you?” he asked. “Who do you say I am?” 20 Peter answered, “The Christ of God.” (NIV)

As we go through the day we talk to the Lord and read his word. We are trying to get closer to him and allow him to work through us. We want his power and anointing, but do we really know him? In order for most people to get something from someone, the person doing the giving needs to know the person receiving. You say I know Jesus and have a personal relationship with him. I ask this question do you really know him? If someone walked up to you and started talking to you about Jesus, do you know enough about him to convince them that they need him in their lives? Not just as Hell insurance but as Lord and Savior. If you have a personal relationship with someone you know how they think, act, and what they would do in a particular situation.

I do not want an answer right now, but I do want you to think about these questions and answer them. No, we do not have to defend Jesus or the word of God, but we do need to be able to explain who Jesus is and what he is like. Make your answer personal, generic answers do not convince anyone about anything, but personal answers can.

Jesus asked his disciples in Luke 9:18b "Who do the crowds that I am?" and they answered him John the Baptist, Elijah, and one of the old Prophets. Then Jesus made it personal and asked them, "But who do you say that I am?" in verse 20. Then Peter answered from what he had seen, heard, and experienced from Christ himself that he was the "Christ of God". Peter could not have answered that question in that manner if he had not known Jesus on a personal basis.

So the first question is this who do you say that Jesus Christ is? And why do you answer in that way? In other words, explain your answer. The next question is a bit deeper. Other than Hell Insurance, why do I need to make Jesus my Lord and Savior? No, I am not going to answer these questions for you, you must answer them for yourself in a personal way. I must answer them for myself also. The next question is a bit tougher. The Bible says that Jesus lived, showed us what he expected from us through his life then was crucified and on the third day rose again. How do you know beyond a shadow of a doubt that he lives today?

You may think that I am trying to place doubt in your mind and turn you away from God. I am not. I am trying to get you to dig in and really get to know Jesus Christ. Most Christians alive today cannot answer these questions or even the very basic questions. How are we to win people to Christ when we don't even know who he really is? If you cannot answer these questions, it is past time to get down and serious with the Lord and his word. When you get serious, he will show you and prove to you who he is. I believe that once we can answer this important question then our observance of the birth of the Christ child this Christmas season will take on a whole new meaning.

 See you Sunday!

        Pastor Paul



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November, 2023

From Pastor Paul

I've heard a lot of droopy prayers in my life. Hey, I've prayed a lot of them, too.

Prayers of desperation -- God, you've got to help me!

Prayers of self-pity -- God, things are so awful!

Prayers of resignation -- God, if you want to leave me unemployed, then I can't stop you!

But I'm learning how to pray a different kind of prayer -- prayer said with thanksgiving. I learned it from Paul who, writing from prison, taught me a most powerful lesson. He said,

"Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God."1

Strange. Here he is suffering himself, yet he's telling me to pray with thanksgiving.

Thanksgiving is the seasoning that makes our prayers edible to God. After all, who wants to hear people whine all the time? I've learned that you can't whine and give thanks in the same breath. Self-pity and thankfulness don't mix any better than oil and water.

In fact, mixing thanks with prayer somehow changes it. When we remember what God has done for us in the past and think about who he is in the present -- and express that in thankfulness -- our prayers become more gentle, more trusting somehow. Thankful prayers are offered with faith. And faith is an essential ingredient for prayers that God chooses to answer.

We remember the Pilgrims on Thanksgiving Day, not so much for their turkey dinner, but for the sheer faith that inspired them to give thanks in a year that saw nearly half their number die of sickness. Yet they prayed with thanksgiving.

When your annual day of feasting is over, you may bemoan your extra helpings of dressing, mashed potatoes, and pumpkin pie. But if you can hang on to the "thanks" part of Thanksgiving, you'll be a different person. Because when you learn to talk to God about your needs -- mixed with a healthy dose of heartfelt thanks -- then you have crossed the divide from whining at God to real prayer.

Happy Thanks-giving!

Pastor Paul



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October, 2023

From Pastor Paul

Hard things. What makes them bearable? Doable? Where do you find the inner strength that you need to endure them?

I decided recently that I can put up with almost anything, endure tough things, stretch my comfort zone, and deal with hurts and disappointments. If they are for the Lord. I mean if my attitude ultimately impacts someone for the Lord, then it's worth it. If I sacrifice something for the Lord, it's worth it. If I'm hurting but I know that ultimately that hurt will be worth it because I'm giving it over to the Lord and He will use that situation or hurt for His greater good then it's so worth it. But things just don't seem very bearable or doable without being able to lean on the Lord or knowing that He will use them.

I think that is where hope is so valuable. In my life, I have hope because I know I can turn to God and He can bring good from what I am going through or use it in a mighty way. If I couldn't turn to Him, things would just feel so very lonely, hopeless and empty.

Hard things come into our lives all of the time. It's hard to forgive someone who has hurt us deeply. It's hard to sacrifice our desires, dreams, and wishes especially if other people benefit who may not deserve them. It's hard to feel like we are forgotten or "shafted" not noticed. It's hard to do the right thing when the wrong thing feels so good at the moment! It's hard to swallow our pride, let go of our bitterness, or squelch our anger. It's hard.

Doing something hard is worth it though. It's worth it if you do it for the right reasons. Do it for the Lord and not yourself. If you do it for yourself that only keeps the focus on yourself and you don't really benefit in the long run. But if you do it for the Lord, then you have a greater cause and something that motivates you to be better, stronger, wiser.

Yes, doing something hard is worth it if it's for the Lord. I know that I can do anything if it's for my God. You can too. Find the inner strength you seek by giving those hard things over to God today.

See you Sunday,

Pastor Paul



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Tuesday, August 22

From Pastor Paul,

Do you have a dream and a goal for your life? Do you envision something is changing in your circumstances? Did you make a commitment to change some bad habits in your life? Do you feel that God wants you to step out in faith and start a new ministry or a business? Do you know deep down in your heart that God wants your life to go in a totally different direction?

The Bible says in Philippians 2:13 that "God is working in you, giving you both, the desire and the power to do what pleases him." Another translation puts it this way: "For it is God who works in you, both to will and to accomplish, according to his good will."

You see, so many times we have an idea or a desire. We are so sure that it comes from God. We get all exited over it. And then, all of a sudden the excitement is taken over by doubt, fear, and uncertainty and disbelief.

But I want to encourage you to go for it and stick with it. If you feel that God is up to something in your life, please realize, that God did not only put the idea, the dream and the will into your heart, but that he also has already equipped you with the power to accomplish his plan that he has for your life.

And it is a wonderful plan that God has for your life! He has put a dream and an idea in your heart and mind and he has given you the power to fulfill that dream. It gives God great pleasure to watch you accomplish his plans for your life.

Here is a lesson that you can learn from a postal stamp. When you mail a letter, the stamp stays on the envelope until it reaches the final destination. Many people have great and noble plans but they give up to soon. As soon as some problems come along the way they quit. Some quit because some good Christian friends just 'can't see it being from God'. Others work hard towards accomplishing their dream but then they give up just steps away from the finish line.

Let me encourage you to

1. Set yourself a goal, that is reachable and has value for yourself and others
2. Start today to take at least on step every day toward that goal
3. Never lose sight of your goal. (Think and dream about it all the time)
4. Don't listen to people that have no interest in your accomplishments
5. Stick to it until you reach your destination. Just like a stamp!

Let your dreams, goals and desires come alive in your heart and mind again. They must fill you with a burning desire. Be convinced, that you will reach your God given goal because with God NOTHING is impossible!

And never give up! Tell yourself every morning: It is too early to give up!

See You Sunday,

Pastor Paul



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Monday, July 24

I would like to share with you one of my favorite illustrations shared by Charles Swindoll:

Let’s play ‘Let’s Pretend’. Let’s pretend that you work for me. In fact, you are my executive assistant in a company that is growing rapidly. I’m the owner and I’m interested in expanding overseas. To pull this off, I make plans to travel abroad and stay there until a new branch office gets established. I make all the arrangements to take my family and move to Europe for six to eight months. And I leave you in charge of the busy stateside organization. I tell you that I will write you regularly and give you directions and instructions. I leave and you stay. Months pass. A flow of letters are mailed from Europe and received by you at the national headquarters. I spell out all my expectations.

Finally, I return. Soon after my arrival, I drive down to the office and I am stunned. Grass and weeds have grown up high. A few windows along the street are broken. I walk into the Receptionist’s room. She is doing her nails, chewing gum and listening to her favorite disco station. I look around and notice the wastebaskets are overflowing. The carpet hasn’t been vacuumed for weeks, and nobody seems concerned that the owner has returned. I asked about your whereabouts and someone in the crowded lounge area points down the hall and yells, "I think he’s down there." Disturbed, I move in that direction and bump into you as you are finishing a chess game with our sales manager. I ask you to step into my office, which has been temporarily turned into a television room for watching afternoon soap operas. "What in the world is going on, man?"

"What do you mean?"

"Well, look at this place! Didn’t you get any of my letters?" "Letters? Oh yes! Sure! I got every one of them. As a matter of fact, we have had a letter study every Friday since you left. We have even divided the personnel into small groups to discuss many of the things you wrote. Some of the things were really interesting. You will be pleased to know that a few of us have actually committed to memory some of your sentences and paragraphs. One or two memorized an entire letter or two - Great stuff in those letters."

"OK. You got my letters. You studied them and meditated on them; discussed and even memorized them. But what did you do about them?"

"Do? We didn’t do anything about them." (Improving Your Serve, Chuck Swindoll)

What are we doing with what God has placed us in charge of us?

See You Sunday,

Pastor Paul



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Wednesday, June 28

From Pastor Paul

Stealthily they walked through the jungle, a single column of men, cautiously looking right and left as they traveled. They were well armed as they moved through the brush. Their enemies would have been fools to rush them head on. Instead, one by one, they began to emerge from the bushes grabbing the last man in line, carefully covering his mouth so he could not cry out in warning to the others.

Isn't that the way it usually goes? I couldn't tell you how many movies I've watched wherein it happened this way. You'd think they would get wise to this plot after a while and put two men back to back, heavily armed with some sort of siren device on them. That way when the enemy tried to pick them off from the end of the line they would be very well guarded. But no they continue doing it the same old way. I've tried to tell them as I watched, "Look behind you buddy!" But they just refused to listen to me.

But isn't life a little like that? Many live day to day looking back to what happened yesterday. We fret and worry about what we have done. Many a movie star or sports star has ruined their lives and careers because of choices they made yesterday. Perhaps they are sorry for what they've done, although in too many cases they are only sorry after they have been caught. Regardless, we can't change what took place yesterday. We can apologize if an apology is in order; we can try to repay others if we have cheated someone. We can attempt to make right what we did wrong yesterday. Still, the mark is there and we cannot erase it.

Many have said, "If I could just live that incident over I'd do things differently." You know what? If we made the choice we made yesterday, unless we could relive it with the knowledge we have today, more than likely we'd make the same choice as we did before.

Let's just face facts here; we make bad decisions. We get angry; we feel justified and we do things in haste as a result. God calls it sin. If we could only have a heavily armed guard in the rear protecting us from those wrong choices, mistakes, and sin that we did yesterday wouldn't life be a whole lot easier?

In Isaiah 52:12 God, through the prophet Isaiah, speaks of this very thing. It says, "For you shall not go out in haste, nor go by flight; for the Lord will go before you, and the God of Israel will be your rear guard." Isn't that a neat thought? It tells us that God will not only go in front of us but He will also be the heavily armed guard in the back. If we listen to Him, and if we follow Him, He will not only lead us down the path of safety but He will also be at the end of the line taking care of the enemy who desires to pick us off one by one from behind.

In essence He is also saying that if we are faithful in following Him, by doing what He tells us in the Bible as it witnesses to our conscience, He will not only take us down the right road of the future, protect us and guide us today, but He will also be there to help us make the right decisions that will protect our yesterdays. In other words, we won't have to live in regret of yesterday.

I know we all make mistakes and wrong choices. The Lord knows that I've certainly made my share, and then some, of bad decisions. But that only happens when we aren't in tune with God; when we act without seeking His will and His instruction. But when we are orchestrated with the God of Heaven, and we are following His music, the music of life, then He will become our guard against yesterday.

 

See You Sunday,

 

Pastor Paul



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Wednesday, April 26

From Pastor Paul:

One of my favorite Easter stories comes from the Gospel of John. It takes place a few days after Easter, Jesus has appeared to the disciples twice now. And one day Peter and a few other disciples decide to go fishing. It seems like a perfectly normal thing to do, after all they have spent the majority of their adult lives fishing.  

And so now that their time following Jesus around Galilee seems to have come to an end they return to fishing.  

But they were not very successful. They fished all night and they did not catch a single fish. They are discouraged and frustrated, and then just after dawn they hear a man standing on the beach asking them if they have no fish. When they honestly reply that they do not, he tells them to cast their nets on the other side of the boat because there they will find fish.  

So, figuring it can't hurt to try, they cast their nets to the other side. And they cannot even haul the nets into the boat because they were so full with fish.  

Immediately they recognize that this stranger on the beach is the risen Jesus and they quickly go to shore to meet him, build a fire, and feast on fish with him.

I love that the disciples, at a loss for what to do now that Christ has risen, return to something familiar. They return to what they know.  

But they find that it does not quite work out for them anymore. And here comes this man with a ridiculous suggestion that the problem is simply that they are fishing from the wrong side of the boat! The man tells them to cast their nets to the right side of the boat. Like all fishermen at the time, the disciples were fishing from the left side of the boat. This is because the steering apparatus was located on the right side of the boat and thus fishing from that side risked tangling the net with the steering apparatus when a full net of fish was raised into the boat.  

This meant fishing from the right side of the boat could result in damage to the boat or the net, something any fisherman would want to avoid. And yet the disciples find, when they allow the risen Jesus to change their old fishing habits they get an abundant catch. 

We are so like those disciples returning to fishing. After celebrating the Easter season many of us return to our old habits, routines, and patterns of life. Like the disciples, we too return to what we know.  

Jesus does not admonish the disciples for returning to their old way of fishing. Instead he offers them a small but significant transformation, a twist on the old way that has huge results.  

The risen Jesus offers us a twist on the old way, we are called to respond to the Resurrection with fearless love that transforms even our smallest habits, routines, and ways of life.  

What would it look like for you to fish on the other side? What would it look like for you to go about everyday life responding to the call of the risen Christ?  

Cast your nets to the other side. Allow familiar ways to be transformed by resurrection love.

 

See You Sunday,  Pastor Paul



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Wednesday, March 22

From Pastor Paul:

Every year when the NCAA men’s basketball tourney takes place I am often reminded of past tourneys and feats of heroics (and no I’m not referring to IU’s 5 National Championships, sorry Boilermaker fans). In mid-March every year teams take the stage with high hopes of going as far as they can in the tourney regardless of the odds.

    

One tourney that sticks out as one of my favorites took place in 1983. That year the North Carolina State Wolfpack won eight consecutive games which propelled them into the title game.  They faced the University of Houston Cougars, whose twin towers, Clyde Drexler and Hakeen Olajuwon, had earned the nickname “Phi Slamma Jamma.”

     

Experts considered the championship match an afterthought. Houston needed to go only through the motions. But the Wolfpack had other ideas. Another contest as an underdog didn’t faze Jim Valvano’s team.

    

NC State used the same strategy that had carried it on its winning streak. The team stuck to a controlled offense, tight defense, and planned to foul late to force Houston into pressure free throws. The tactics worked well. The Wolfpack led 33-25 at the half.

    

Houston regrouped and went on a 17-2 run. With three minutes remaining, the Cougars forged ahead 52-46. NC State began to foul. The plan worked. Houston missed free throws, and the Wolfpack hit buckets.

   

With the score tied at 52, Valvano ordered his team to work for the final shot. But the Pack’s offense wasn’t clicking and time ticked away. Dereck Wittenberg fired a desperation shot that touched nothing but air. Suddenly, two monstrous hands reached up, grabbed the ball, and stuffed it through the hoop as the buzzer sounded. The hands belonged to NC State’s Lorenzo Charles. The Wolfpack reigned as the NCAA Basketball Champs.

     

NC State proved that things don’t always go as planned. The strongest and the swiftest don’t always win. The writer of Ecclesiastes wrote: “I have seen something else under the sun: the race is not to the swift or the battle to the strong, nor does food come to the wise nor wealth to the brilliant or favor to the learned; but time and chance happen to them all.” (Ecclesiastes 9:11)

    

Time and chance happen to all. And God controls both. Let that be a reminder to us as we continue the work God has called us to here at Calvary. The Wolfpack’s 1983 championship season is a powerful statement as to what can be accomplished if one stays focused on the task at hand. As we move forward in ministry let us continue to pray for the readiness to receive the unexpected from God.

 

See You Sunday, Pastor Paul

 



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