Monday, September 30, 2013

"The Call" -- October 2013 Cedar Creek Church of God Newsletter


          Do you smell that? That, my friends, is the smell of fall. Autumn is my most favorite time of the year. Some people do not like the gloom of the turning of the leaves, and that is understandable, but this season is the harvest season. The idea of “harvest” represents a special place in my heart. Being a farm boy, harvest is a time that we reap the rewards and benefits of our year-long labors. Being a pastor, harvest is a time reminding me that “the fields are ripe and ready for harvest”. It is a beautiful reminder that our work as a Christian is never finished.

            How are we doing in the harvest? It seems as though times are getting tougher for soul-winning efforts. Sin is at the fingertips of the populace. Never underestimate the power of God, however. This past Wednesday night was one of the best services that I have been a part of at Cedar Creek. Hearts were tender after the scary event that happened at South Greene. One young lady made a first time commitment to Christ and salvation. Several other students decided that they were not where they needed to be in their relationship with Christ and prayed for a renewing of their minds in Christ. It was a two hour service filled with the Holy Spirit, and for that I am grateful. I can think of no better way to spend time, and I am very thankful to be a small part of those life-altering decisions.

            As we roll into the last quarter of 2013, we are staying busy in the youth department at Cedar Creek. As most of you know, we have just returned from fall retreat in Crossville. This was a good time of renewal and fellowship. We see friends at events such as this that we rarely get to see. Thank you for your support and prayer for this event. Also lately, this past Friday we sponsored a meal here at Cedar Creek for the South Greene Rebels football team. They were a thankful bunch and I was glad that we could extend a little love and ministry to that local group of young men. I very much appreciate all of the help that the people of the church offered. I could not have done it without you, as this turned out to be a pretty big undertaking.

            Upcoming, we have several things on the horizon. It is already time to start preparing for next year’s big events. Next year is an International Youth Convention year, and it will be held in Nashville, July 5-8. As always, this is a great experience for our youngsters as well as us older ones. This is an expensive journey and we will have to begin preparing for such an event soon. Since our potato crop (which was a rotten, but well-meant flop) is finished, we can now move on to other options. We will begin finishing the T-bird project soon. Also, we are again planning a Christmas banquet on the first Saturday night in December. Go ahead and mark your calendars! We have a couple events coming soon as well. Two of our annual events are creeping up on us fast. In this month of October, we will take our annual corn maze trip. Then, before you know it, winter retreat will be here. The date for these two events are to yet to be determined, so keep your eyes and ears turned toward the bulletin and weekly announcements.

            As we go into this harvest season, please be in prayer for the youth group. I cannot get John 4:35 out of my head. The fields are ripe and ready for harvest and it is our responsibility to be diligent harvesters. Pray that the Holy Spirit go before us and prepare the way so that lives can be changed for the better and forever.

Blessings & love to you in this wonderful time of year! Enjoy those leaf piles, pumpkin pies, and bon fires!


Pastor E.J.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

A Lifelong learner...

        Lord help me to be a lifelong learner. What does it mean to be a lifelong learner? What is the importance? Well, here is a little plowboy mentality for you... If you're stuck on a hill, (life metaphor) and you're not pulling forward, then you're backing up. That is to say, if you are not advancing, then you're retreating. We live in a world that does not sit still. Being idle is not an option. Since "we are called according to His purpose" as not only ministers but as Christians and human beings, we have a responsibility to continually better ourselves so that we are of a greater value and worth. Again in plowboy terms, the more you know the more you can do. The better our ability the better our impact.

         How does one become a lifelong learner? In my opinion, it is a matter of will. We either choose to have the learning mindset, or we choose to be stagnate. The irony of the matter lies in the fact that we will always learn, rather we want to or not. We will learn by experience, mistakes, and success if by no other means. However, if we take the initiative, our learning experiences can multiply extensively. Again, how? We should read. Reading is the gateway to knowledge. I can't sit here in my fancy little office chair and tell you that I absolutely love reading; that would be a lie. It is a love-hate relationship for me, but I am working on it. I pray that God grant me a love for reading, not just a respect. It seems I enjoy it more daily. Nevertheless, we should all be reading and growing in knowledge. What should we read? The Bible is a given. It is a necessity to read God's Word. We cannot live the Christian life the way that it was meant to be lived without hearing from God. The best way to hear from God is to listen to what He says. That being said, I think we should read a variety of things. This variety will broaden our scope of knowledge. I read Christian ministry books often. I read periodicals often. Some of my favorite periodicals are The Greeneville Sun, Group Magazine (a magazine for and by youth leaders), H.O.G., The Angus Journal, etc... I even read modern pop magazines; not because I particularly enjoy them, but because this subject matter will help me relate better with my students. I read books relating to counseling and psychology. I read military and political history. I read financial inspiration books. I read text books (yes even outside of class). I read emergency personnel handbooks and standard operating procedure manuals. I will even read the occasional owner's manual. What you read is up to you, but I humbly suggest stepping outside your comfort on occasion.

          In addition to reading, one could also open up to the idea of furthering their education to some degree. There are endless possibilities in this arena. Yes, sometimes it will cost time and money, but I believe the effort to be worth it. At the urging of my father, I went to college. I was the first generation of my family to graduate from college. The material I learned at Milligan was amazing, but even more important is the ideal instilled within me that learning is important. I have recently enrolled in a local educational opportunity started by a local congregation and offered to all. It is called The Church of God Bible Institute. It is a two year, online learning opportunity taught in the format of a collegiate style. There are these opportunities as well as others to tap into. If you cannot commit to university learning, try a local community college and take a class at a time. Research your options. I attend seminars often; these too are great learning opportunities. One of my favorite recent endeavors is venturing into the world of chaplaincy. I would love to one day be able to serve as an emergency services chaplain, if the Lord directs. I expect this to be in a volunteer capacity, but what better way to volunteer? With this in mind, I have started taking a few ICISF (International Critical Incident Stress Foundation) classes to both prepare me for future chaplain possibilities, but also to gain important knowledge in my full-time ministry at Cedar Creek.

          Being a lifelong learner is a responsibility placed on us all. We should have the desire to always better ourselves for the advancement of others as well as our own benefit. Here's a final thought in plowboy terms, and I hope it applies to you as well: I don't know if I'll ever be a genius or not, but it won't be for lack of trying.

Good luck in your educational endeavors. Love & Blessings,

Pastor E.J.

Monday, July 29, 2013

"The Call" -- CCCOG Newsletter Article for August


            Ready or not, here comes August. July has been a little bit of a breather for me, as I am sure it has for many of you as well. I always enjoy celebrating our Nation’s independence on July 4. It was a little rainy this year, but it was still an enjoyable season. We should not hasten to be thankful for this great and wonderful country in which we live. As July continued, Kasey and I took a week’s vacation and spent some time at the beach. It is a beautiful sight to see. As the waves crash in, I see God’s handiwork. A little time at the golf course and a little time at the beach and I was ready and anxious to get back to work. I always enjoy traveling, but I also enjoy coming home. I am rested and ready to hit this August hard. August is when youth group season starts. As a matter of my opinion and observation, I think the most effective time for youth ministry pretty much follows the school year. I think when school starts and lives go back to normal, things fall back into a routine. Church life and youth group are no exception. This is a time for youth pastors like myself to capitalize on the opportunities to build relationships with the young people. Students will never get serious about Christ unless they can see a real relationship with somebody who is exemplifying Christ’s love. This is a Biblical challenge to us all. 
               Looking ahead, I would like to share some of the opportunities that lie around the corner. A couple of those opportunities are extremely exciting. August the 14th will be a special service for the youth at Cedar Creek. We will be having our back to school bash. This is an opportunity to kick off the season with a bang. The students have been urged to invite several friends to this time of food, fun, and fellowship. It is an opportunity to welcome new students from the high school as well as a reminder to some of those who are returning. Please pass the word along. Also currently, several of the students are trying hard to restart our drama ministry. They are practicing often and putting their heads together in a strong effort. Their hopes are to possibly travel to sister churches and present a service of drama, song, and Word. I am excited as well; I love seeing them motivated for the cause of Christ. Moving into September, we will be hosting a Public Servant Appreciation Sunday. This was again an idea from the students. In remembrance of the 9-11 tragedy/season, they decided that they would like to publically thank the public servants (police, fire, EMS, etc…) that serve our community selflessly every day. Therefore, we are going to acknowledge their service on Sunday the 15th by offering a special service in their honor as well as a banquet to follow. There will be more about this in the September issue of The Call, but please be in prayer for this event already. Also, if you would like to be involved, please see me. September also holds the Tennessee State C.O.G. Youth’s Fall Retreat. It will again be at Camp Crossville this year and the dates are September 20-22. It is always a fun, Godly experience, and this year will be no different. The speakers will be Tiger Brooks and Dough Hallock while worship will be led by the popular Julian Drive. The cost of this trip will be $40 and a deposit of $20 will is due by August 28.  
               I am excited about what is ahead for the coming year. I am confident that God will bless our lives and His ministry. Most of you know already, but I would like to publicly share a bit of excitement. If everything goes well, Kasey and I are going to be parents sometime around the end of January. We are excited and nervous as well. We would appreciate your prayers. I see all of the little ones running around here at Cedar Creek and I am excited about adding another one to the bunch. I can think of no better place to introduce our child to the love of God than here at Cedar Creek. I know that our Church family will help us in that process. 
As for now, may God bless your back-to-school ventures and I hope that the coming season will bring us closer to God and each other! See you Sunday!


Pastor E.J.

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

What's it Mean to You? Independence Day!

What does Independence Day mean to you? That's a question that deserves an answer. In all fairness, I'll go first. What does Independence Day mean to me?? Well, I suppose I am a little more patriotic than some. It seems that my generation and those that are following don't seem to have a lot of respect for the holiday. I believe they appreciate the United States of America, but I feel as though the love and adoration is not there. Maybe this is an epidemic that spans a majority of generations; maybe even those before me.... Anywho, back to the question. What does Independence Day mean to me.....

-- It is the day that represents the absolute best nation in the world. She may not be exactly what I think she should be, but the United States of America is still the best nation in the world.

-- It represents the pride that I have for the three young men from my youth group that have joined the armed services. May God bless them and protect them for their willingness to serve. 
-- It is a day that represents my grandfather, Brent, who served in the air force and worked hard the rest of his life so that I could benefit today from his labor. He died too young, but his legacy lives on. This is the American way that I am fond of.

-- It is a day that represents my grandfather, Harry, who was crippled with Arthritis but still worked hard to provide for a large family. This too is the American way that I am fond of. It is this dedication that is lacking in today's society!

-- It is a day that represents everyone else's grandfathers that served and came home with scars that most of us couldn't see.

-- It represents American classic cars, Route 66, drive-in movies, and malted milk shakes.

--It is a day that represents all of the sacrifices made by people that I'll mostly never know who died for millions of people who they would never know.

-- It represents a vast multitude of public servants who are not military, but who are fire fighters, police, emergency personnel, etc. (many who volunteer their time) and who also dedicate their lives to the bettering of their communities. In turn, this makes our Nation stronger and better. They represent an attitude that should be, but is rarely prevelant. That attituted is one of service.

-- It represents September 11, 2001

-- It is a day that represents, fields full of cows, corn fields, steel mills, coal mines, semi-trucks, and every other imaginable means of hard work. 
-- It is the day that represents the cousin I never knew because of shrapnel from the viet cong.

-- It is a day that represents a group of then tyrants, now founding patriots who formed a set of standards in the late 1700's that I believe were God-inspired and are now being negatively and selfishly manipulated.

-- It is a day that represents time with family, cook-outs, fireworks, and fellowship.

-- It is a day that will from now on be bittersweet for some relatives who are planning on laying their loved one to rest on July 4, 2013. May God comfort the family and lengthen the legacy of Wayne Woolsey.

-- It is a day that reminds me of how much I love these United States. I'd fight for them today, if called to do so.

-- It is a day that represents, LZ-Xray and other heroic efforts throughout our Nation's history.

-- It is a day that represents good music -- everything from banjos to steel guitars to slap bass to cellos to sythesized guitars.

-- It is a day that I desire to be respected and cherished by the coming generations. Here is my plea: Be proud!! Fly the Flag. Wear the red, white, & blue! Play the patriotic music. Stand tall and respectful when the Star Spangled Banner is played. Thank a veteran often. Boycott those who stomp on the flag. Vote for the principles that this country did, does, and should forever stand for. Know that you are directly responsible for the direction of the United States of America. Become active in government, no matter what your age. Most importantly, make sure that God is first in your life. God cannot be taken out of America if He remains within her patriots and government officials. Go to the top, friends, and take God with you!

-- It is the day that represents the absolute best nation in the world. She may not be exactly what I think she should be, but the United States of America is still the best nation in the world.

What does it mean to you?

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

July 2013 Article in "The Call" --- Cedar Creek COG Newsletter

          I can only remember one better June in all of my days. This has probably been the busiest June in all of my days, but it was right up there with the best June ever! I think I’ll choose to be careful here; the best June in the life of E.J. was the one back in 2008 when my lovely wife and I were married. She is the one God chose for me and definitely is a blessing straight from heaven. Nevertheless, June 2013 is going to be one to remember as well. It started with church camp. Camp Greene is an event that I am not directly responsible for, and for that I am thankful. I could not begin to fill the shoes of those who direct such events. It is a bird of a different color. I did take great joy in participating in what I hope was a helpful manner. Roles and strategies aside, here is the point: God works through church camp. I saw souls saved, lives changed, friendships made, friendships repaired, etc… Souls were saved!! Heaven is rejoicing because of the fruits of the labor of those who manned Camp Greene. I almost feel guilty, though. I was amazed at God’s awesome participation during church camp, and I should have been expecting it. Then came vacation bible school at Cedar Creek. This too was an amazing event. I am not sure about quantity, as the numbers might have been a little bit off, but the quality was (as it always is) amazing. There were knights adorning the halls of faux rock, there were dukes, earls, kings, queens, and every mid-evil creature imaginable. “Kingdom Rock” was the theme. Most importantly, there was an atmosphere focused on educating children about the ways and love of God. I was extremely excited to be a part of this event, too. A huge “thanks” goes out to those who helped with and helped orchestrate such an amazing event. Also, thanks go to God for His guidance and blessing. If you read this newsletter locally, and you have children, please put Cedar Creek’s VBS on your 2014 to-do list. You and your children will not be disappointed.   

            There are some exciting venues on the horizon for the Cedar Creek Church of God Youth Group. I cannot divulge all of them in this month’s letter, as some of them are still in the processing stage. However, I will give you a little taste of the excitement that lies ahead. We are now one year away from IYC 2014. Next year’s international youth convention will be h eld in Nashville. Since it will be so close, we are going to do all that we can to take full advantage of this ministry opportunity. We are now entering the heavy planning stage for this event, so your prayers are much appreciated. Also, the youth group is excited about a couple of mission-minded opportunities that lie ahead. These, again, are still in the processing stage. We are excited to divulge our decisions, but it may take a couple of weeks to finalize them. A few fundraising opportunities are developing as well. The potato crop will be coming in within the next month or so. You do not understand how excited I am to see these young men and women dig an acre of potatoes! If you are interested in supporting the youth group by purchasing some potatoes, please be in contact with me pretty soon so I can put you on the order list. The Thunderbird project is making headway as well. It has been in the shop for the past month or so, but I expect the students to be polishing her out in no time flat.

So far, it has been a busy summer. Some people who study youth ministry patterns say that ministry stops during the summer. Some go as far as to cancel services in June and July. With all due respect, these people have missed the mark. Well, at least for our neck of the woods they have. Sure ministry patterns change during the summer. A youth pastor must minister to those who show up. A minister might even have to change methods a little. Families are gone on vacation and (as frustrating as it may be at times) trips to the lake and golf course slip in on occasion. We as ministers must not waiver. Those who negate summer ministry should have been at Cedar Creek this past June; The Holy Spirit sure was there, and for that I am thankful. This June was no off-season, nor do I think any June should be.

 When you get the next newsletter, our summer will be winding down. Students will be gearing up for school, and the youth ministry will be planning accordingly. I hope that you enjoy the rest of your July. I pray that God protects and blesses you during this season of fun. We serve an amazing God that will “never leave nor forsake you,” but “life more abundant” is there for the taking should you choose to draw nearer to God. Choose well my friends, as the choice if yours!

 Blessings, prayer, and love in your direction,

Pastor E.J.  

Monday, July 1, 2013

VBS directors are a special breed!

   I know it's been a couple of weeks since I've posted, but I promise it's not because I haven't wanted to. So, what's been going on? Vacation Bible School, baby!! What a week. My last addition to this blog was about how I thought there will be a special place in Heaven for church camp directors. Well this is true, but I have now added "VBS directors" to that list. VBS directors are underestimated. A common misconception is that their responsibilities stop with preparing a snack and providing a craft. This may be the case with a make-shift, half-hearted attempt at VBS, but this should not be the case if children's ministry is a priority at your church.

     Our VBS crew started preparing for the big week months ahead of time. The theme for VBS this year was "Kingdom Rock." It was a mid-evil, knights and castles type theme. Our crew built a castle on stage, fashioned rock walls throughout the entire building, created knights in shining armor to adorn the halls, and then focused heavily on the curriculum. This was a major event. It is true, the director has to make sure that there are people in charge of snacks and crafts, but they also have to make sure every child is registered, that there is a crew-leader for every age group, and that there is ample time, ability, and resources for the entire event.
When all that is done, they have to fend off the nay-sayers (generally an older-minded, negative, self-centered congregant) that speak their negations on why we should never decorate the church or act in such a way. If they had it their way, you could only come to church if you were over 50, wearing a tie or dress, knew exactly where to sit, and were cleared and approved only and directly by them. This is the kind of thing that a VBS director has to put up with. It sounds familiar, as I myself deal with some of the same things as a youth pastor. This may be why I have a special place in my heart for someone who is willing to battle Satan and his attacks to minister to children. Following God's call is never easy, but it is the right thing to do.

My hat is off to you VBS directors of the world. May God richly bless!!

Thursday, June 13, 2013

God's tool of evangelisim -- the teenager.

      Have you ever noticed a reverse evangelism effect in youth-aged congregants and their families? By "reverse" I mean the children coming to church and bringing their parents instead of the parents coming and bringing their children. I have noticed this phenomenon on several occasions. I find it powerful, amazing, and often times overlooked. Here is what has happened some at Cedar Creek. Students get extremely involved in youth activites and God starts dealing with their hearts. This is a good thing. It is my desire to see students grow closer to God. In turn, they follow the Holy Spirit and dedicate their lives to God. This too is the way it supposed to work. In many cases, however, these students live in a home where Christ is not the center. I have seen many a tear shed from a teenager in earnest prayer for her or his parents to be saved. This breaks my heart. There is a good side of this story though. On occasion, parents will start coming to church with their kids. Honestly, I believe it is a wonderful approach used by God. Most everyone around here at least acknowledges the existance of God. They may not be sincere about their individual involvement, but they love their children enough to want them to be close to God. In turn, when their children want to go to church, they sometimes end up going with them. In the best of these situations, the parents are saved and become dedicated to walking with Christ. How wonderful! God works through a teenager and I love watching it go down!