Pastor's BlogPastor's Blog
by Rev. Kevin Miller

     Feel free to read and comment as I share my thoughts on a variety of topics that I hope you find interesting or uplifting.  

The Legacy of Josh Hader

Posted by Kevin Miller on OA10er @ 10:10

In yet another example of irrational behavior and youthful impulsiveness, a 24-year-old professional baseball player is dealing with the logical consequences of hateful and inflammatory posts to Twitter he made as a 17-year-old. 

Josh Hader is an all-star relief pitcher for the Milwaukee Brewers.  On July 17, as he was pitching in the All-Star Game, someone anonymously re-posted Hader’s 7-year-old inciting tweets.  He first became aware of this after he left the game.  To his credit, in a postgame interview, he didn’t deny or try to justify his actions, but held himself accountable (as opposed to whoever reposted Hader’s comments who hid behind a pseudonym, but I digress).  He has since met with and offered contrite and tearful apologies to his teammates, coaches, and Major League Baseball executives.  “These were never my beliefs,” he said. “I was young.  I was saying stuff out of ignorance and that’s just not what I meant.”

I don’t know whether or not Josh Hader is a Christian, but I admire the way he has handled himself the last few days.  Let’s be clear about this: I am in no way endorsing or agreeing with what he said in his post, (If you would like to read the content of the posts, use Google.  I personally find the comments too distasteful to even quote here), but who among us can’t empathize with Josh? 

Jesus invited a crowd of accusers, "Let any one of you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone.”  (John 8:7)  Maybe it’s just me, but I’m thankful that I was not the same person at 24 that I was at 17 (and for that matter, that I’m not the same person today that I was at 24).  Do any of you want to be 17 again?  At 17, I had more answers than questions.  40 years later, I find myself with more questions than answers.

So what do we learn from this?

Think before you post…  

Proverbs 15:1-2 says, A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger. The tongue of the wise adorns knowledge, but the mouth of the fool gushes folly.

At some point, we’ve all played the role of the fool.  I learned a long time ago never to respond emotionally.  Think about the long-term implications before you hit the “post” or “send” button, and, if possible, wait 24 hours before doing it.

Remember there is no “unsend” button. 

Take responsibility for your actions and words.

Galatians 6:4-5 reads, All must test their own work; then that work, rather than their neighbor’s work, will become a cause for pride. For all must carry their own loads.

These word precede the classic “we reap what we sow” in Galatians 6:8.  Along with Josh, we feel the weight of our actions that hurt others.  Following Jesus means that we commit all our actions and words to him.  Are your actions and words honoring Christ today?

Children and youth NEED mentors and guides.

It’s interesting to me that, by law, people need to be a certain age to drive, vote, join the armed forces, and purchase cigarettes and alcohol.  Why?  Because we understand that they are still children who lack the cognitive and emotional maturity to make responsible decisions.  But anyone with a computer or cell phone can post any message they want to the world.

There’s no guarantee that, even if a youth has a mentor, they won’t do or say (or post) something stupid.  But this event lifts up the fact that all children and youth have a need for solid role models in their lives.  Kids will be kids, but more than once, I’ve had to remind someone (even a few adults) that their pastor is reading their posts.

You are never too old to help influence a child.  The Psalmist pleaded with God to use him for the sake of the next generation:  Even when I am old and gray, do not forsake me, O God, ‘til I declare your power to the next generation.  Your might to all who are to come.  (Psalm 71:18)

Remember the lesson of the marbles: every Sunday matters and we’re playing for keeps.

Nobody is beyond the reach of God’s grace.

Romans 8:31-39 says exactly this: Nothing can separate us from God’s love.

I’ve heard it too many times: “God won’t forgive me for what I’ve done.” Don’t believe that lie.  Nothing and nobody is beyond the reach of God’s grace.  As Josh was pitching in the All Star game that night, there was also someone in the stands holding a sign that said, “John 3:16.”

“For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in Him may not perish but may have eternal life.”

If you want to post some good news that you will never need to apologize for, post this!

Whatever is in your past, God is willing to leave it there.  Will you let Him?

Responding to what's happening at our borders...

Posted by Kevin Miller on OP2er @ 14:59

     A day doesn’t seem to go by without news or opinions about what is happening at the Mexican-American border.  As many of you do, I often feel helpless and overwhelmed about how to respond.  If you heard the sermon on June 24, you heard part of a response – to care, to pray, and to ask how we can help those working closest to the situation.

     Our own Bonnie Albert and I have been corresponding over the last week about this and below is her most recent, and insightful response.  Bonnie is well connected with agencies and missionaries through her ministry.  We, as United Methodists, are connected to a wider church and are in a position to help make a difference.

     Please read Bonnie’s response and prayerfully consider your next step in this crisis.  May God continue to provide His insight and wisdom.

 Pastor Kevin

 

  1.     Prayers are necessary for working through and understanding immigration and all the issues of justice around whatever action is taken. 
  2.     Gather Information.   What does the church say about immigration?   What does the Bible say?    Read, read, and read some more.    
  3.     Know the facts (and today this is not easy to do); know the sources of information, and be aware of an author’s bias.  How is it that Christians can take two very opposing views on immigration?     
  4.     Get together with others who are concerned about the situation for discussion and sharing of the facts.  For further study, consider study in parts and come together again to share information. 
  5.     Learn how Indiana is touched by the recent changes in policy at the southern border.
  6.     Contact your U.S. representatives.   Be aware of what is taking place legislatively.  Based on your information in previous study, weigh in on what legislation is being formed. 

     Sometimes trusting those in the trenches is a way forward. They have done the vetting, they have been doing this for a long time and there is no need to reinvent the wheel.   We can financially support groups we trust.    

 

  1.     Justice For Our Neighbors (njfon.org) is a spin-off of the United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR) and operates in states around Indiana. Illinois and Michigan have a strong presence.  Donate funds to help the legal teams around the country to assist clients with the paperwork and understanding the resources available to them.  The case loads are on the rise.   Resources are stretched.     
  2.     Holding Institute – (holding-institute.org) Located in Laredo, TX is a community center named after a missionary by that name and this place has ministered to the families and children coming across the border seeking a safe place to live for over a century.  Valparaiso 1st UMC has sent money to them in the past as has the Indiana Conference Bishop’s Christmas Offering for Children grant. 
  3.     The Welcome Network in Northwest Indiana. (thewelcomenet.org)   While not specifically tied into what is taking place at our southern border, they realize the longer the crisis goes on, the more likely it is they will be working with families coming from this time period.  Tony Burrell is the executive director there and he has spoken at our church on two different occasions.    

Sue said...

Posted on OP10er @ 21:34 -
Thank you Bonnie and Pastor Kevin

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Where the Way Forward Begins

Posted by Kevin Miller on OP1er @ 13:14

April 18, 2018

On Maundy Thursday, Rev. Kate Walker was the keynote speaker at the UMW breakfast.  The title of her talk was “At the Table,” but she apparently didn’t want us confused. She opened her talk by mentioning that she would not be commenting on the “Commission on a Way Forward.”   I was a little surprised that no one reacted or asked me about it following the meeting.

If you’re not aware, the Commission on a Way Forward is a 32-member group appointed by action of the 2016 General Conference, to assist the Council of Bishops (the group who oversees the United Methodist Church) to lead the church forward amid the present impasse related to LGBTQ inclusion and resulting questions about the unity of the United Methodist Church.

The report from this commission has been presented to the Council of Bishops and will be released to the general public before July 8.  There are times planned at our Indiana Annual Conference (June 7 & 8) for “Critical Conversations” with our delegates to General Conference.  Later this summer, our own Bishop Julius Trimble will be holding information and discussion meetings in each district so be watching for more detailed information.

A final decision will be made at a called General Conference planned for February 23-26 in St. Louis.

The pastors of First United Methodist Church have discussed this topic and are planning to provide a forum for discussion and Christian Conferencing of the report and to pray for the delegates representing our Indiana Conference.  Details are forthcoming, but it is being planned to take place after Labor Day.

As we anticipate this time in the life of our church, the most important thing I would like to communicate to our leaders and the church is that, no matter what happens at our Conferences, WE will model 1 Corinthians 13:1-8a:

If I speak in the tongues of mortals and of angels, but do not have love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give away all my possessions, and if I hand over my body so that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.

Love is patient; love is kind; love is not envious or boastful or arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice in wrongdoing, but rejoices in the truth. It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends.

 REGARDLESS OF WHAT HAPPENS outside this church, WE WILL:

  •          Love ALL people with the love of Christ.
  •          Focus on our mission: Making disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world!

Pastor Kevin

Defining Reality by Rev. Kevin Miller

Posted by Pamela Gonzalez on OA11er @ 11:26

February 13, 2018

     Back on January 13, 30 hearty souls braved the early morning snow to gather in Tower Chapel to worship, learn and talk about leadership and the church. There was time for reflection and discussion as we learned about doing ministry “off the map” and how this might look at First United Methodist Church.   (To hear my sermon based on our learnings, go to our website or our Facebook page, and listen to “Off the Map” on February 4).

     The theme for the day was drawn from Jesus’ words to his disciples in John 14:12 – “I tell you the truth: whoever believes in me will do the works I have been doing, and they will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father.”  

     We live in an amazing time when we can still do “greater things” for God’s Kingdom.

     An exercise I’ve found helpful over the years is called a SWOT Analysis. At our event, the group was divided into six smaller groups at tables and were asked to take about 8 minutes for each section; identifying the Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats at First Church.

     While a SWOT Analysis is not a perfect tool, it gives us an opportunity to share thoughts and identify areas of hope and common ground. It gives us a picture of the church at this point in time. It helps us identify our current reality…which, really, is a function of leadership. Business leader and author Max DuPree wrote, “The first responsibility of a leader is to define reality.”

     The list this group generated ended up to be pretty long. Your responses may differ, but the table groups agreed in many areas. Every table group found some common ground – not in all areas, but here are the top five responses identified during this exercise:

Strengths:
     Location/visibility
     Mission-oriented
     People (quality of talent & leadership)
     Quality staff
     Facilities

Weaknesses:
     Income/finances
     Internal conflicts (i.e. trust, communications)
     Lack of volunteers (a few people doing most of the work)
     Fewer younger people/children
     Sunday school & adult education

Opportunities:
     University outreach
     Youth & college-age
     Communication
     Partnering with other churches
     Invite & involve more people

Threats:
     Revenue
     Outside activities infringing on worship & activities
     Increasing secularism
     Insider language/cliqueiness
     Mind set of maintaining status quo
     Aging congregation
     Apathy
     Losing mission focus

     So the natural question is, “What’s next?” It’s an interesting list, but what do we do with it?  (good question)

     The next step is to use this for a process of identifying gaps and developing goals, and a strategic plan for the next few years. Weaknesses can be changed into strengths. The trick is doing this in such a way that identified strengths don’t become weaknesses. This is the beginning of a process of developing goals that are specific, measureable, attainable, realistic and timely. If you like acrostics, these spell “smart.”

     I believe Jesus has a plan for His bride and I believe Jesus has a plan for this church. My prayer is that you and I (and we) are open and obedient to this plan as it is revealed to us AND that we have the courage to adapt and implement His plan for us. Will you join me in this prayer?

John Novak said...

Posted on OP9er @ 20:22 -
Nice job with the SWOT. There should also be an effort to look at things external to the church and anticipate future trends to plan strategically. You might find more opportunities and threats that way. Skate to where the puck will be as Gretsky would say.

Dave Hunt said...

Posted on OP4er @ 15:52 -
Amen, Rev. Kev! Together Everyone Accomplishes More {TEAM}, so let's lean forward and blaze a new trail in His name to glorify God in our community.

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"It's the Transitions" by Pastor Kevin Miller

Posted by Pamela Gonzalez on OA10er @ 10:07

     Doing ministry is challenging.  Doing it in a new setting can be trying.  The very first line in William Bridges’ book, “Managing Transitions” is “It’s not the changes that do you in, it’s the transitions.”  My experience is that the people of the church make all the difference when it comes to helping transitions go well. 

     At First United Methodist Church, 2017 has been a year of changes and transition. There is a new Senior Pastor (yours truly) beginning July 1; a new Pastor of Visitation (Rev. Dee Miller) who began duties on July 15, and a new Director of Choirs (Christopher Ebert) who began on August 16.  We are all transitioning together.

    There is a fourth staff position that has been open for a long time.  With all due respect to the rest of our great staff, I believe that the leader of youth is the most important in the church today.   And I think most of you do as well.  I’ve heard the comments loud and clear:

“We need youth leadership!”
“We need youth leadership NOW!”
“We need dynamic youth leadership!”
“We need a youth leader teenagers can connect with!”
“We want a dynamic youth program!”
“Our church needs a solid youth program and leadership!” 

     In my short time here, it’s obvious that a solid youth program is important to you and to this church. 

     The good news is that we may be close to hiring a solid leader for our youth program. Someone who loves Jesus, loves His church, loves leading youth and has experience in leading a program that builds leaders. 

     I’ve been down this road a few times and here’s what I’ve learned:

  • Hiring the wrong person costs more than hiring the right person. Without a clear vision of the gifts, graces and talents you’re looking for, it’s tempting to hire the first person who applies.  But hiring the wrong person doesn’t just cost money.  There is a cost in trust and goodwill, which means that the next leader begins their ministry under a cloud of suspicion and doubt. 
  • Hiring the right person comes with a cost.   As with the wrong person, “cost” here means more than money and time.  A new person means new perspectives, ideas and visions. I’m not talking about losing our history or identity for youth ministry.  What is important to you (a youth choir, popcorn festival, mission trips, etc.) will be part of their orientation.  But we need to be open to new ideas for ministry, and be publicly supportive of new ideas.
  • He’ll need room to do ministry. Here’s what I mean: if this person is in my office in six months in tears and questioning their place here, IT’S NOT HIS FAULT!   Each church has a different culture and despite our best efforts, we instinctively revert to “the way we do things here.”  Music and youth ministries are vital components to the life and ministry of FUMC, but this person will need room to establish themselves (inside AND outside the church). 

     Remember, change is a part of our everyday life.  It’s the transitions that can do us in.

     How can you help this transition go well? There are several ways:

  • Begin by praying for the new leader.  We may know soon, but as I write this, both sides are discerning. 
  • Even when we know, pray for the new leader, and his/her family.
  • Be prayerfully supportive; verbally supportive and hospitable as (another) new person joins our staff. And be financially supportive. We are making a commitment to support a leader so that our young people can be ushered and discipled into a growing relationship with Jesus Christ. 

     I’m excited about the prospects for ministry here in 2018.  Let’s all transition together. 

Pastor Kevin Miller
December 6, 2017

Michael Leland said...

Posted on OP9er @ 20:08 -
Pastor Miller,

I am passionate about music. I will enthusiastically do whatever I can to promote and augment the music ministry at FUMC. I have many ideas. I have discussed my interests with Christopher. The select ensemble "Joy!" which I assembled has performed recently to benefit Housing Opportunities. We were a smash hit!
I hope to involve youth in future music making. I am aware the transition from Esta to Chris has presented some challenges.
How might I contribute to the music ministry at FUMC?

larry.tumbleson@gmail.com said...

Posted on OP8er @ 19:30 -
Amen!

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"Something More Powerful . . ." by Pastor Kevin Miller

Posted by Pamela Gonzalez on OA10er @ 10:41

Has the world gone nuts in the last couple weeks, or is it just me? I’m not as outspoken on social causes as many of my colleagues but allow me to make an observation.

Although I “grew up” during the 1970’s, I was heavily influenced by the turmoil of the ‘60’s.  You see, my oldest brother served in Vietnam, so even though I was young, I became socially aware of the world around me.  The news was dominated by demonstrations against the war and made statements like, “Question authority!” and “Don’t trust anyone over the age of 30!”  Reflecting on it became part of my family’s dinner conversation.

I don’t remember either of my parents saying this, or exactly when, where or how I developed this thought, but here goes: All those demonstrations and riots and pickets and protests didn’t accomplish anything. Using violence to react to violence has never ended well…and I don’t think it ever will.

Understand I’m not talking about limiting anyone’s freedom to assemble and state their opinion.  In the midst of all this turmoil, I remember a simple, but powerful lesson: “I may disagree with what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.”  In other words, in this country, anyone has the right to express their opinion…whether I personally agree with it or not.  No matter how stupid or misguided someone’s opinion is…they have the right to express it.  And reacting violently to another person’s opinions doesn’t change anything.

During the 1960’s, there was one man with a different vision who used something more powerful – a peaceful use of a biblical worldview. Martin Luther King brought about change by encouraging non-violence; by promoting peace and by intercepting hate in exchange for love.  And he died for the sake of that cause.  Centuries ago, a man by the name of Jesus of Nazareth used the same strategy and his death and resurrection changed the world

If you really want to change the world around you, get to know this Jesus. During his final discussion with his disciples, he told them, “I am leaving you with a gift – peace of mind and heart. And the peace I give is a gift the world cannot give. So don’t be troubled or afraid.” (John 14:27 NLT)   Allow this gift to work in you.

Peace in this world is usually defined as the absence of conflict. The peace of Christ is confident assurance in any circumstance.  The world around us focuses on sin, fear, uncertainty, doubt and so many other forces at war within us.  Jesus said he will give us this peace if we are willing to accept it from him.  This is the peace that really does go beyond our understanding, and that truly changes hearts to transform the world.  What do you think?

Lord, make me an instrument of your peace,
Where there is hatred, let me sow love;
where there is injury, pardon;
where there is doubt, faith;
where there is despair, hope;
where there is darkness, light;
where there is sadness, joy;

O Divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled as to console;
to be understood as to understand;
to be loved as to love.

For it is in giving that we receive;
it is in pardoning that we are pardoned;
and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.

St. Francis of Assisi

Steve Cronk said...

Posted on OA9er @ 8:30 -
As I write this, my wife and I are nearing the end of a three-month stay on Sanibel Island, Florida. Yes, the weather here has been wonderful, the seafood has been fresh, and outdoor exercise has been invigorating.
But, there really are no islands to escape to. The recent shootings here in Florida are a salient and grim reminder of that. I have been a Methodist most of my life, and have been active in the Valpo church since the 1970s. I have dear friends there, and it has felt quite natural and right to worship there. But, like your older brother, I grew up in the 1960s, and I totally disagree with you about the power of protest and demonstrations to evoke change. Either you stand for something, or you fall for everything. I believe in prayer, but I don't believe that God will do for us what he has empowered us to do. It is too easy simply to "pass the buck" to God, fall down on our knees, and expect Him to "fix it." That is why merely sending "thoughts and prayers" to grieving students and families in places like Parkland, Florida, rings hollow. Why isn't our church encouraging people to march against gun violence in Chicago or Indianapolis on March 24? Why isn't our church taking an unequivocal position on gun control? Why isn't our church speaking out for immigrants, against the building of a wall, and for social and economic justice? Where is our social gospel? Oh, I know, the Methodist Church is worried about membership, as all mainline churches are. But, I would argue that we are talking about moral issues here, and our country will continue to toss and turn at sea until we have the courage to steer it in the direction of Christ. I did not agree with Jacob Williams on everything, that's for sure. But, I was once chairperson of the Staff Parish Committee, and I understand the organizational norms of our church. My bet is that you have been brought in to settle things down, and to take a more middle-of-the road approach. I am certainly not going to tell you how to do your job. But, our young people aren't in the church because they do not see adults creating a world which is better than the one our folks left us.

Susan Gleason said...

Posted on OP4er @ 15:29 -
Thank you. Very well said.

Susan Gleason said...

Posted on OP4er @ 15:29 -
Thank you. Very well said.

Cindy Felton said...

Posted on OA9er @ 8:58 -
Pam, I so appreciate your thoughts here and in our weekly newsletter. You have made communication your ministry and I always feel closer to Christ after reading your words. Absence of conflict is not the goal Christ has for us - it is the blessed assurance that He loves us that brings true peace sustaining us through our own conflicts.

Keith Kirkpatrick said...

Posted on OA9er @ 8:18 -
Very thoughtful and well said.

John kemler said...

Posted on OP12er @ 11:12 -
Love your commentary and the prayer at the end of it. Make me an instrument of your peace, Lord.

Lani said...

Posted on OA10er @ 9:46 -
AMEN!

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"A very long exhale . . ." by Pastor Kevin Miller

Posted by Pamela Gonzalez on OA11er @ 11:58

Some days you have to take a deep breath with a very long exhale. It’s already August and I feel like I’ve been here a very long time.  This has been the summer of change for the Miller household.  The summer is just half-over and here’s what’s happened:

  • We moved from Kokomo to Valparaiso.
  • I started a new appointment on July 1.
  • Liz ended one job and began a new one.
  • Nate registered for classes at a new school and will start a new job later this month.
  • We have moved farther away from our daughters, but closer to Liz’s parents.
  • My brother died.

You know, when I list everything, it seems overwhelming. One of the staff pointed out that we experienced the three top producers of stress in life all since summer began: new job, a move and the death of a loved one.  I didn’t really need to know that!

But God continues to bless us with favor. God blessed us with precious time with Alan during his last days.  We talked, we prayed, we laughed and we cried, and I can only hope that if I ever find myself with a similar diagnosis as Alan, that I can face death with the same grace, courage and humor as he did.

God blessed us with safety during our move. Everything went well; we all arrived safely and nothing was broken.

God blessed us with family and friends.  Mid-July was a whirlwind with the blessing of seeing Liz’s family for a couple days in Wisconsin and then speaking at Alan’s funeral in Decatur. What a feeling of love and support from extended family we seem to only see at funerals anymore, and spending a few minutes with life-long friends.

Finally, God has blessed us with wonderful churches. This is the body of Christ at work. The people and staff of Valparaiso First have been so loving and supportive and understanding during this time. We will never forget your graciousness and love during a stressful transition.  You have made it go smoothly and for this we will be forever grateful.

Because of the body of Christ in action; because of Jesus and because of love, I end my long exhale with the prayer, GOD IS GOOD!

Pastor Kevin
August 9, 2017

Becky said...

Posted on OA9er @ 8:30 -
We have been blessed that you and your family are now part of our church family.

alice said...

Posted on OP9er @ 20:18 -
ALL THE TIME . . .

Sherri said...

Posted on OA10er @ 9:34 -
God is Good!

Kate said...

Posted on OP1er @ 12:18 -
...all the time!

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