Pastor Lee's blog

Leaving a Legacy, Securing the Future

The United States is in the midst of a major demographic shift. In 2013 the older population - persons aged 65 or older - represented 14.1% of the U.S. population. In the next 20 years that percentage is expected to rise to 21% of the population.

The Baby Boom Generation (born 1945 - 1964) is nearing retirement age and accounts for the expected growth in the retired age group. Interestingly, the birth rates for those generations following the Baby Boom Generations were not as robust, and so there will be fewer workers available to replace those retiring Baby Boomers. This presents a challenge to the business sector in the coming years, but it will also effect participation and giving in the church at large.

Recognizing Staff

What a special day we had yesterday as we honored Jeanna Carlton for 20 years of service and Alma Carlton for 30 years of service. Each one, in their unique way, helps keep the nuts and bolts of the administration of our church going strong.

Jeanna is the first face and first voice many people see and hear. She presents a welcoming presence for our church. If you receive something in the mail from the church, you can be confident that Jeanna had something to do with it. Bulletins, Newsletters, Website, and phone tree messages all flow through Jeanna. She keeps the office humming!

You most likely will only see Alma on Sunday mornings in one of the back pews, but her unseen work is the oil that helps the gears of the church move smoothly. Anything financial or stewardship related is handled by Alma. Thank you notes for memorials, giving statements, financial statements, and checks all flow through her! She is meticulous and thorough!

God has blessed our church with an outstanding staff all the way around. They are committed to helping us as a church fulfill the calling we have been given by Christ. Each of the staff cares deeply for each of you, and together we will continue doing great things for the Lord!
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The month of May will be filled with lots of activity here at the church. We will celebrate communion on May 1st; the Presbyterian Women will have their Spring gathering on May 2nd; on May 12th, we will have a dinner and speaker surrounding the topic of new trends in advance medical directives; on May 15th, we will recognize our graduating seniors; After 11 a.m. worship on May 29th we will have our annual Memorial Day Luncheon.

The member care team will be sponsoring Lay Pastor Training on May 22nd and June 5th immediately following worship. If you are interested in becoming a part of this ministry or would like to find out more information, contact Emelie North and plan to attend our training sessions. There is no commitment requested until after the training sessions.

Please continue to pray for each other and the work of our church!
May the Lord bless each of you this May!
Your friend and pastor,
Pastor Lee

I Finally Choose!

Ten years ago when the congregation was made aware that the Pastor Nominating Committee was going to present their recommendation for your new pastor, the big question on everyone’s mind was “who does he ‘pull’ for?” Was it Carolina? State? App? Surely not Duke!? You were assured that your new pastor did not have any North Carolina college loyalties. Ten years later, that is no longer the case.

After a long and involved college application and search process, my twins, Madison and Kinsley, have decided on Wake Forest University! We feel blessed that they were both accepted to Wake, and that Wake has recognized their academic aptitude with scholarships that made going there feasible and the decision easy. So from this day on, I am pulling for Wake!

Our Amazing Youth!

I have shared this story a number of times; but after sitting through another wonderful Youth Sunday service, I though it would be worth repeating.

Back in 2005, when Brooke and I were looking for a new place of ministry, we visited many churches. Some were in Pennsylvania, others in Virginia, of course some in North Carolina, and one was all the way up in Parkersburg, West Virginia. Each church had good opportunities for ministry, and we felt that we could have a meaningful ministry in any of them.

As we were trying to make our decision, Brooke asked to meet with the Pastor Nominating Committee (PNC) of First Presbyterian to get a better idea of the ministry this church had with youth. She mentioned that not only were we looking for a place for me to serve as pastor we were also looking for a place to raise our children in the faith. The PNC invited Brooke to attend Acts Alive Sunday, and she was very impressed with the maturity of faith of those youth leading the service. For us, this was God’s word to us that First Church Lexington was the place for us. So we arrived with twin 8 year olds and a 4 year old as we began the formative years of raising our children.

Lenten Sermon Series

Many people over the ages have tried to define who Jesus was. Historical Jesus studies proliferated a number of years ago, and recently even T.V. commentator Bill O’Reilly jumped into this genre with his book “Killing Jesus.” As a person who likes history and is a follower of Jesus, I have found all of these books interesting even if I didn’t agree with their conclusions.

It's A Wonderful Christmas!

Many families have Christmas Traditions that help set this time apart from all other times. One tradition that makes this season special for me is watching Frank Capra’s “It’s A Wonderful Life.” I am sure you remember the story: George Bailey is an average joe whose dreams of making it big and traveling around the world are constantly being interrupted by real life. First his father dies, and he has to give up his dream of college to his brother. Then his brother returns from college with a great job, and George agrees to stay with the family business so it doesn’t close. Eventually, George’s uncle Billy loses some of the Building and Loan’s money, and George faces the prospect of being arrested for bank fraud. In a desperate state, George goes to a bridge and considers jumping in and dying knowing that his insurance policy would cover the lost money and provide for his family. In the nick of time, his guardian angel, Clarence Oddbody, prevents him from going through with his plan, and then gives George a great gift - the ability to see what life would have been like if he had never been born.

It truly is an interesting idea to consider: what would life be like if you had never existed. What would or wouldn't have happened if you were not around? What would your loved ones be like if they had never met you? Who would they be? What would be different? If this exercise was really possible, you could discover the influence have you had on the lives of others that you just don't realize. You might find that you indeed have a wonderful life.

This idea got me to thinking: What if Jesus never came to earth as a baby wrapped in swaddling clothes? What if there had never been a Mary or a Joseph? A heavenly host, or humble shepherds? Wise men from the east, with gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrhh? What if the God of all creation, did not humble himself and become incarnate in the person of Jesus Christ?

Well, without the birth of the babe in the manger, our standing before God would still be based on our ability to fulfill the law of God. Since there is no one who is able to completely fulfill the law of God, we all would still be under condemnation. There would be no salvation.

Without the coming of the Christ, sin would still have power over us. Their would be no possibility for us to overcome sin and its effects in our lives. Sin would separate us from God and we could not experience true forgiveness. Without the ability to receive God's forgiveness, we would not be able to forgive others.

Without the gift of Jesus, his cross, and his resurrection, death would still have power over us. The grave would have the final word, and there would be no hope of eternal life with God and those whom we love.

Without the coming of Christ, there would be no gift of the Holy Spirit. Without the Holy Spirit, we would have no one to empower us and encourage us to good works.

Without Christ, hundreds of millions of people would have not been recipients of the church's mercy ministries over the last 2000 years. No St. Francis of Assisi; No Martin Luther, No Mother Teresa; No Billy Graham;

If the fictional Bedford Falls was worse off without George Bailey, can you just imagine where our world would be had the King of Kings and the Lord of Lords not come to that tiny manger, in a humble stable in almost forgotten city of David?

Praise the Lord, that on that Christmas night so many years ago, Jesus was born in Bethlehem. Because he was: We have been saved by Grace through faith; The power of sin has been broken and sin no longer has dominion over us; We have been forgiven and as a result can forgive others; The power of death has been shattered; and in Jesus' resurrection is the promise of our own; We have been gifted with the Holy Spirit who engenders faith in us and who encourages and empowers us to love and serve God. This Christmas let us all remember that Jesus Christ truly is the greatest gift ever given!

May each of you have a blessed Christmas and happy New Year!
Your friend and pastor,
Pastor Lee

Ten Years After

Ten years ago this November 21st, I walked into my office here at church and began my pastoral ministry with you. At that time, I had two 8 year olds and a four year old and was just about to celebrate my 40th birthday. Now my twins are applying to college and my youngest is a freshman in high school! (I am still 40!) When I look at my children, I truly realize how much time has past.

My Take on the Pope's Visit

Over the last week or so, I have had a number of people ask me what I thought about the Pope and the Pope’s visit to the United States. Even though I am a protestant minister, I have greatly respected the Catholic Church and its leadership over the largest Christian group in the world.

When I lived in Lexington, Virginia, one of my closest friends was the Catholic Campus Minister. We did many ministry events together, and I learned a great deal from him. I have often thought that the reformers in the 16th and 17th centuries may have discarded too much in their efforts to reform the abuses of the Catholic Church. I have always appreciated the Catholic Church’s emphasis on personal spiritual disciplines, ministry to the poor, and have loved the writings of the Catholic mystics.

One aspect of Pope Francis that I truly admire is his humility. He has relinquished claims to many of the special privileges of former Popes. He has chosen not to live in the papal residence but in a much simpler apartment that allows him to live in community with others. He wears simple white clothes with an iron cross rather than the more lavish clothes and gold crosses of other Popes. He likes to be around people and is much more accessible to the average person.

His visit to the United States has been encouraging and uplifting for Christians in both the Catholic and Protestant church. It is so refreshing to have a major Christian leader receive positive press about the good things the Church of Jesus Christ does. Too often, much coverage of the Christian church is negative. I’d rather have the Church known for what it is for than what it is against. The Pope’s visit has been a nice highlight of what is good about the Church and following Jesus.

Kick-Off to Fall!

We had a fabulous kick-off to our fall ministry programming on Sunday! We had a good crowd for both our early fellowship hall service and our 11 a.m. sanctuary service. It was great to have both the Gathering Band and the Choir back in worship. You could feel the energy in all of our Sunday school classes. Our Acts Alive Youth group had a great day on the lake even though the weather was a little cool, and our Young Disciples and Kids Club groups were bursting at the seams.

Let Us Worship Together!

While there are as many different types of churches as there are belief systems, there is more that unites those who follow Jesus Christ than divides them. Certainly it is God’s desire that those who follow Jesus dwell together in unity.

Experiencing unity, however, is not something that just happens. It takes initiative and a willingness to step beyond the comfortable spheres in which we live. Over the next month and a half we will have two opportunities to take this initiative and join with other churches in shared worship events.

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