Pastoral Announcement

Pleasant Valley Family,

Saturday morning, Tracy and I went to First United Methodist Church in Royse City where Rev. Dr. Ron Henderson introduced me as their new pastor.

Over the past few weeks, I’ve felt a sense of restlessness that I needed to share with Rev. Dr. Henderson. During that meeting, I requested a change of appointment. As many of you know, I wasn’t originally considering a move… but after a lot of prayer and discussion with my family, I felt like this was an opportunity that God was calling me to take.

I don’t answer this call lightly. One thing that I can say is that Pleasant Valley United Methodist Church has grown into a strong, healthy church over the past 3 years. Pleasant Valley is blessed with strong leadership that will continue to build on the church’s mission to make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world.

Even though my family will be leaving Pleasant Valley, you will always have a special place in our hearts. Together, we have done amazing ministry over the past three years… and I am confident you will continue to reach out to the church family and the community with the love and grace of Jesus Christ.

We have two months together to celebrate and to also look forward to what God has in store for our church. It has been a honor and blessing to serve with you.

Be God’s,
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Pastor Chris

Finding Joy in the Journey

This article was written for the Wylie News on May 4 and the Sachse News on May 5
What do donuts, pigeons and hitting a plastic ball with a foam bat have in common?

These are all things that bring great joy to my grandson Samuel.

And let me just tell you…the joy he exudes is a full body experience. His face lights up, his body wiggles relentlessly, and he squeals with delight.  The sounds he makes are like no other…a high-pitch shrill that sends our dogs on high alert.  His delight is a sensory experience: he looks joyful, he sounds joyful, and he feels joyful  when he jumps in my arms for a hug.

Oh, to be a child again.

I don’t know about you, but it’s not every day that something makes me respond like that.

It can be hard to experience joy like that in challenging and stressful times, can’t it?  I mean, Samuel is almost 3.  He doesn’t yet have the pressures of a difficult boss, providing for his family, finding the ever-elusive work-life balance or juggling a to-do list that never seems to shrink.

Challenging times are rarely pleasant, but that doesn’t mean that good things can’t come from bad circumstances.

In James 1, we find these words from Jesus’ brother:

“Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything” (James 1:2-4).

James reminds us that hard times will come…that it’s not a matter of “if” but “when”.  Our perspective is the key when our faith is tested.  When tough times come, where is our focus?  On the possibilities or the problems?  Do we see the silver lining or the storm cloud?   Do we trust that God is still in control, or are we convinced that He’s abdicated His throne?

I’ve heard it said that life can make you bitter or better.  As a pastor, I’ve seen examples of folks who’ve responded in both ways.  While both outcomes are very common, one is far more pleasant and fruitful than the other.

So how can we find joy in hard times?  It’ll largely depend on what we choose to focus on.  Here are a few things to consider to help keep your perspective in the right place:

Remember who’s in control.  Remember that you’re not alone and try not to be afraid.  See Isaiah 41:10.

Trust that God has a plan for you, and that He will work things out for your benefit.  See Jeremiah 29:11 and Romans 8:28.

Look for the good things that surround the bleak circumstances.   Where are the good things in the midst of the chaos?

Surround yourself with people who will encourage and strengthen you.  Everyone needs friends to lean on in difficult times.  Even Jesus had an inner circle of 3 close friends within His 12 trusted disciples.

Bleak circumstances will come…there’s no doubt about that.  It’s how we respond that will determine whether we we soar or sink.

Be God’s

First Love

One of the great things about Facebook is that it helps you to remember important events in your past. For example…
April 15, 2012:
While some may call it tax day, this was the day we held our first preview worship service for The Journey at Cox Elementary School.

November 3, 2013: This was my first Sunday as senior pastor of Pleasant Valley United Methodist Church.

March 23, 2014:
This was the first Sunday Pleasant Valley United Methodist Church held
two Sunday morning worship services in two locations. Our current traditional service took place on this campus while The Journey service was held at 11am at Cox Elementary School.

Why am I bringing up these dates?  Because on each one of those days, something special was happening. When you walked around our worship venues, there was a level of excitement that you could just feel.

Over the past couple of months, I’ve been thinking about what it was that made that time special. And I’ll have to admit, I really haven’t felt that energy or passion here recently. I started to wonder what was causing it?  Have I lost my passion? Has it become the same ol’ same ol’? Where have I gone wrong?

As I was lying in bed this week, it dawned on me. The words from Jesus in Revelation 2:4 played through my head: “But I have this against you: you have let go of the love you had at first.” When that thought first came to my mind, my first reaction was that it was really harsh. But as I kept tossing and turning, I finally got up to look deeper at this passage.

While that verse feels harsh, Jesus proceeded in verse 3 with these words.  “You have shown endurance and put up with a lot for my name’s sake, and you haven’t gotten tired.” Over the past 4 years, we have been through a lot. We’ve had a lot of change. With a lot of changes, there can come a sense of weariness.

And I confess, along with that weariness, it is easy to let go of the love we had at first. We used to look for ways to make an impact in the community. We were excited about going out to events in the community and actually went looking for ways to be involved. Looking at the Facebook timeline I saw movie nights, national nights out, game nights, cookouts, helping out neighbors, Vacation Bible School and youth mission activities and PV’s first confirmation class in years. Through these events, we were proclaiming with a loud voice the Love of Jesus Christ and our desire to be there for others.

And most recently, we had another milestone day: August 23, 2015. That was the day we brought The Journey service to the Pleasant Valley campus. What was supposed to be a celebration of having everyone back under one roof has brought something different with it: a spirit of complacency that I believe is still haunting the church today.

Instead of our top priority of sharing Christ’s love with the community, we have hunkered down and moved into protection mode.

When we forget our first love (Jesus Christ), we become protectionists. We want to save what is ours, but Jesus had words for this as well. In Matthew 16:25 Jesus reminds us, “All who want to save their lives will lose them. But all who lose their lives because of me will find them.”

I am extremely thankful for each and every one of you. This church is poised for great things… and I don’t want to miss out on the opportunities in front of us!  I can’t think of a group of people that I would much rather be in ministry with.  But let’s recapture that first love, and be a beacon of love and grace to the communities of Sachse, Wylie, Garland and Rowlett.
Be God’s

Winning the Worry War

This blog appeared in The Wylie News on March 16 and The Sachse News on March 17.

I’ll admit it… I’m a forgetful person.  With so much going on in my life, with the demands of my job, and with family obligations, it can be a challenge to keep things straight.  In fact, on Sundays I often hear my wife say, “Let’s talk about next week”.  She wants to be sure that we’re both on the same page and that one of us hasn’t forgotten about something we’ve committed to do.

Reminders are a very, very good thing.  If it wasn’t for my Outlook calendar prompting me for my next meeting, I’d be late to most everything!  Reminders can pop up at the craziest times and in the most unexpected ways.

Several years ago, I was in a very tough season of ministry.  There was conflict
all around me, and it felt like everyone, everything, and every circumstance was against me. If there was one thing I needed, it was a few reminders: I needed to remember that God still loved me despite all the chaos that was swirling around me, and I needed to remember that God was bigger than my circumstances and that He was in control.

You see, I’d started to worry about a lot of things.  Let’s face it…we all have plenty that we can worry about if we choose to do so: our job, our family, our friends, our finances, our health… and I’d let the worry monster move into the spare bedroom of my mind.

And that’s when God provided me with an important reminder.  I was setting up the altar at the front of the church, and the altar Bible plopped open to this passage, and Jesus’ words hit me hard:

“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes?  Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?” (Matthew 6:25-27).

I don’t know about you, but as a middle-class American, I don’t spend a lot of time worrying about my clothes or whether or not I’ll have enough to eat.  But I had started to worry about my job performance, which directly impacted both of those things.  One layoff, and I would be mightily worrying about the most basic of needs.

The same is true for those who were impacted by the tornadoes that ravaged our area the day after Christmas last year.  One minute, people were putting away Christmas gifts, and the next minute, they no longer had a house to store them in.  In the blink of an eye, everything changed… and worry, stress and anxiety took over.

In the passage above, Jesus is talking to a crowd that had assembled on a mountainside.  And at first glance, his words aren’t very helpful or actionable.  He basically instructs his audience not to worry… which for me is easier said than done!  Luckily, Jesus continues and gives us help in knowing how to make that a reality:

“But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.  Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own” (Matthew 6:33-34).

Jesus is basically reminding his listeners to give it to God… because in the end, God is in control and we’re not.  During the darkest of times and in the most bleak of circumstances, God will grant you a peace that’s hard to describe and impossible to understand.

And it’s important to remember where this ability not to worry comes from: God.  In 2 Corinthians 4:7-9, Paul puts it this way:

“But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us.  We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed.”

Without God’s help, it’s impossible to be hard pressed, perplexed, persecuted and struck down without being crushed, in despair, abandoned and destroyed.  But with God’s help, all things are possible.

Remember… you’re a precious, beloved, valued child of God.  Turn your fears, worries and stresses over to Him.  He’s got your back.

Be God’s

Immeasurably More

This article appeared in the Wylie News on January 27 and Sachse News on January 28

Earlier this month the country was captivated by a longshot, and people were very eager to participate… just in case luck was on their side.  Of course, I’m talking about the recent Powerball jackpot, which climbed to an enormous level… $1.5 billion!

With 175,223,510 possible number combinations, the chances of “winning it all” were next to impossible… yet that didn’t dissuade people from picking random numbers and buying a ticket or ten.

With over 371 million tickets sold, the results of the Powerball was the recipe for a LOT of disappointed people.  Only 3 families were ecstatic as a result of the drawing.  Everyone else was saddened by the outcome.

Jackpots are often immeasurably more than any of us can imagine.  And according to the apostle Paul, so is God’s power, which is available to us if we only ask for His help.

In fact, Paul concludes his prayer for the Ephesians with these words:  “Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.” (Ephesians 3:20-21).

Paul is reminding those in the church at Ephesus that God’s ability is so far beyond ours… that He can do so much more than we could ever dream up!  But the key is… we have to do our part.

Going back to the Powerball example, it reminds me of an old joke I heard years ago.  A man was begging God to let him win the lottery.  Time and time again, he’d beg but nothing happened.  Finally, God answered the man… a booming, frustrated voice came down from heaven saying, “You’ve got to buy a ticket!!!”

God’s power is there… He’s able to do immeasurably more than we can ask or imagine… but the key is, we have to ASK!  We’ve got to imagine what “could be”… and see past what “is now”.

Asking for help is hard for most people.  I know it’s hard for me.  Nine times out of 10, I’d rather do it myself than burden someone else.  They could think less of me… or heaven forbid, they wouldn’t do it as well as I would.  We’re full of reasons not to ask for help… but the truth of the matter is, we all need help sometimes.

The bottom line is, if you’re going to ask for help, wouldn’t you want to ask someone who can actually do something about it… immeasurably more than you could ask or imagine?

Sometimes it’s hard to even know where to start when you talk to God.  Praying is tough for most people, even pastors.  It’s hard to know what to ask or how to pick the right words.  There is no wrong way to pray… just start talking.

Each Sunday night at 6pm, we have a prayer meeting at Pleasant Valley United Methodist Church, and this is an open invitation for anyone who would like to join us.  We pray for each other, our city, our country, its leaders and our world.  We ask God for protection, provision and for help discovering ways to serve our community.  It’s amazing that once you start asking, the ideas just start to flow!

You’re not going to tell God anything He doesn’t already know.  You’re not going to surprise Him, shock Him, or catch Him off guard.  He’s eager, willing and able to help… and He loves you.  He’s just waiting for an invitation from you.  Will you invite Him to help today?

Hope Is On The Way

This article appered in the Wylie News on December 16 and Sachse News on December 17
“If you build it, he will come”.

This was one of the most memorable lines out of one of my all-time favorite movies, Field of Dreams.  Kevin Costner’s character, Ray Kinsella, gets the improbable mandate to build a baseball diamond in the middle of his corn field… with the assurance that ball players of years past would show up to play.  Hearing voices and questioning his own sanity, he tries to wrap his mind around the task that has been set before him.

Eventually, the ball field is built and the players do come to play.  But it took great faith on Ray’s part to see the vision for what could be… one day.  Ray had to start somewhere… but where to begin?  He started in the only place he could… by believing the unbelievable.

The Christmas story is very much the same.  The people knew a Savior was coming.  After all, the stage had been set through the prophets’ foretelling centuries before it happened.  They had heard of the coming Messiah for years and years, countless times.  But believing without seeing is hard.  Faith is essential to keep hoping for something that you desperately want but have yet to experience.

Mary’s story starts out by needing a great deal of faith, as told in Luke 1: a troubling angelic visit revealed an impossible scenario in the most difficult of circumstances.  As an engaged virgin teenager, getting the news that she was going to give birth to the Christ Child was most definitely hard to wrap her mind around.  Full of hope, Mary accepted this newly-offered assignment knowing that obstacles were in her way.

One big obstacle was Mary’s fiancé Joseph.  Joseph, who could have called for Mary’s immediate public execution, needed a great deal of faith and hope: faith that Mary was telling the truth, faith that his angelic-ridden dream was more than an intense reaction to a bad dinner, and hope that the Savior of the world would soon be there.

The shepherds needed faith and hope: faith that the heavenly messenger was more than a vivid hallucination, faith that they’d find the baby Savior in a feeding trough, and hope for a future like one only dreamt about.

God has a way of making impossible situations spring to life in often the strangest of ways.  That’s as true today as it was back then.  Hope is all around us… we just need the faith to see it.

As I look around the communities of Wylie, Sachse and Murphy, I’m amazed at all the ways I see God at work.  Angel trees around town are all but empty… with generous families, individuals, church members and companies taking it upon themselves to provide for those in need.  The Christian Care Center regularly takes in donated canned goods so that those struggling families will have somewhere to turn.  But none of these things started out without a lot of faith that it could be done and hope for future impact.

This Christmas season, take a few minutes to reflect on how you can make a difference in someone’s life.  It doesn’t have to be a big ordeal or expensive undertaking.  Do you know of someone in need?  Can you buy someone a meal?  Offer hospitality, a hug or a smile?  Extend forgiveness?  All of us can convey the message that hope is on the way!

#HopeIsOnTheWay

It’s Advent. This time of year, we as a church look forward and looks back. Strange?  Well, a little. You see we look back, because we remember the birth of the Christ child. We look forward, because we know that the birth of the Christ child changed the world. And that is what we as followers of Christ are called to do, isn’t it?  2 Corinthians 5:17 reminds us, “if anyone is in Christ, that person is part of the new creation. The old things have gone away, and look, new things have arrived!”

Our Advent series this year is called “Hope is on the Way”.  The Israelites longed for a Messiah, and we are blessed because Messiah has come.  Because the Messiah has changed our lives, we in turn act as Christ’s representatives to be change agents in the world. Over the season of Advent, we invite you to show that Hope is on the Way! This Sunday, you are invited to pick up a unique Advent Calendar. Each day from November 30 – Christmas, you are invited to share acts of kindness around our community.  You will find posts on our Pleasant Valley Facebook pages showing how you can spread the joy of the Christ Child through this season of Advent. If you would like to share on your social media sites how you are making a difference, please use the hashtag #hopeisontheway and let your Facebook, Twitter and/or Instagram friends know that Pleasant Valley continues to make a difference in our community and world!

I look forward to worshipping with you this Advent season!

Be God’s,
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