2013 (Archived)


January 2013

Dear Lanes Chapel Family:

This month for our staff interview, I have chosen to interview Amber Tomlinson, our Church Administrator. I hope you enjoy getting to know Amber as much as me.

In 150 words or less tell us about yourself.

 

I love Jesus with all my heart and would be nowhere and nothing without Him.  I am forever grateful for His love, grace, sacrifice and forgiveness.  I am a child at heart and love to have fun and laugh.  I was born in Weatherford, Texas on May 27, 1979.  I grew up in the Fort Worth area where most of my family still lives and graduated early from Azle High School in 1996.  I went on to complete my degree in Communications at UT Tyler in 2007.  I love watching movies, doing yoga, listening to music, reading, and taking walks. I have three beautiful, sweet, energetic, and animated boys, River (12), Jake (8), and Evan (8) who are the LIGHT of my life.  I am thankful for all of the blessings our good Lord has provided.

 

1.    How long have you been a member of Lanes Chapel and how long have you been on staff?

I have been a member since 2009 and I’ve been on staff for almost 3 years.

 2.    How would you describe your job in 3 sentences or less?

I have the best job ever.  It’s not really a job, it’s more like getting paid to do what I love.  I love my job. ;)

 3.    Where did you work and what did you do prior to coming on staff at LCUMC?

I worked in telecommunications, administration and sales, then I went on to work at Hibbs-Hallmark for the lovely Brenda Thomas and did sales & marketing there as well.

 4.    What is the primary difference between corporate work and church work?

The overall atmosphere of true teamwork and the reward of helping people.

 5.    What is the most gratifying aspect of working in the church?

Working with the six greatest people EVER, working for the BEST congregation EVER and above all else, SERVING OUR LORD.

 6.    How do you understand this phrase:  As the church administrator, you are in ministry.

If you work in the church, you are in ministry!  Even if you clean the toilets in the church, you’re in ministry!

 7.    What is your recipe for spaghetti?  I hear your son, River, calls it “magnificent?”

That would be good ol’ traditional RAGU, not prego.

 8.    What movie could you watch anytime of any day?

“OH BROTHER WHERE ART THOU” – cinematic genius. 

 9.    What is your fascination with Taco Bueno

Well, they have PARTY tacos and burritos, they have mexi-dips and chips, they provide mine and Mel’s monthly, if not weekly, therapy sessions, they have the Ten Commandments posted in their restaurant, they have cheesecake chimichangas, they have FANTASTIC service AND they have MONKEY BREAD and STRAWBERRY FANTA for those really tough days.  And thank you for asking, I think I’ll eat there TODAY!

10. What is your favorite thing to do with your sons?

Lay on the couch with all of them piled up on and around me, cuddle, and watch a movie!

In Christ

Jeff Gage

 


February 2013

As part of my ongoing series of staff interviews, this month I’ve turned the tables and allowed the staff to interview me.  They submitted these questions.

  • Describe your feelings when you were called to Lanes Chapel.  How do you feel after being here a year? 

Those first feelings were ones of great excitement and joy and fear – all of the unknown.  I was about to go into a situation very few pastors ever walk into.  
After a year, I am not as fearful as I used to be.  I am still overjoyed and excited, though.  This is a great church.  In some ways, though, I feel like the boy who caught the frog.  “Now that I have it, what do I do with it?”  It’s a great adventure each day.

(And please understand, I’m not calling this church a frog.  I’m just saying that God has given me a great gift, one I had prayed for over the course of many years prior to being appointed here.  Now that I have that gift, I daily try to discern how God would have me lead LCUMC in the way that best fits into his will and brings him glory that souls might be saved.)

  • What plans do you have for the church’s future?  Where do you see us in five years? 

I have a lot of ideas about programs and discipleship ministries – so much so they would fill this entire newsletter, so I’ll skip those.  The greater thing I pray for as we go into the future is that this church will continue to be and become even more of a church that is atypical.  I pray it will be the place where everyone is welcome regardless of who they are or what have done or are doing in their lives.  I want people to feel the presence of Christ when they come onto our campus or meet any of us around town.  I pray that when people’s feet hit the pavement in the parking-lot, they will be welcomed into the LC family.  Once here, I pray they will meet Christ in a new and powerful way; and they he will change them into being the people he wants them to be.  Much of this we are already doing; I just pray for more of it.  I pray this church becomes more of the church where people come when they need mental, emotional, spiritual, and physical healing.  I pray this church will be a beacon for the lost, where the oppressed are set free, the lost will be found, the depressed will find hope, those in despair will find joy, and those who are ailing will be healed.  I hope that when someone hears of Lanes Chapel they will say, “That’s the church that loves Jesus and loves people.”

  • How is Lanes Chapel different from the other churches you have served?

The biggest difference is worship services.  The palpable feeling of the presence of the Holy Spirit is tremendous for me during LC’s worship.  To know that anyone can come into Lanes Chapel and worship freely in a manner that is genuine to them is crucial.  We have great music that goes from cello and French horn to southern gospel to contemporary praise and worship.  That is a feat few churches ever try much less do so successfully.  Melody Hughes, the musicians and our singers are a credit to this church.  Also, we laugh and celebrate and clap in worship.  It is joyfully fun to be at Lanes Chapel at 10 o’clock each Sunday morning.  And truly, when I give the benediction, I am ready to immediately come back and go again every week. 

The other difference is the staff I work with.  We actually like each other.  I have worked on staffs where the people did not like each other.  That is no fun.  We laugh and sing and have fun at staff meetings – or at least Bob and I do.

  • Who, other than your parents, was the greatest influence on you when you were growing up?

Wow, there are a lot, but the one I look back upon who helped me most in my life at various times when I was at my lowest is Rev. Stan Copeland, the former pastor at Pollard UMC, who is now at Lover’s Lane UMC in Dallas.  He helped me and always lovingly guided me through some hard times.  He was my youth director in high school and my pastor for a time in Houston.  He is likely one of my key influencers in answering my call to ministry, too.

  • What was, or was there a defining moment or event confirming your call to full time Christian service as a minister?

One of the moments I look back upon as one where I finally admitted my call happened when I was working as a pharmacist.  I had been battling my call in my heart and mind for some time prior to this episode.  One morning before the store got very busy I was counting pills and I slammed my spatula down on the counter in disgust.  I looked at the technician who worked next to me and said to her, “Paula, I am not supposed to be here today.”  She looked at me puzzled and asked, “Where are you supposed to be, Jeff?”  (I am sure she was expecting anything but what I said next.)  “I am supposed to be in seminary because I am supposed to go into the ministry.”  She said with tears in her eyes and with a big smile on her face, “That is the most wonderful I have ever heard.”  She was a wonderful Christian woman who was actively involved in her church.  She was the only one in the store who knew for a very long time.  I did not share my news with my boss for many more months – until I was basically ready to move.

  • What is the most bizarre, whacky, wildest thing that’s ever happened to you during a worship service? Where were you and how did you react?

In Hooks during our time to take prayer requests, one of my children asked for prayer for an imaginary horse and it’s colt that lived in our home.  The colt was not feeling well and the “momma horse” and my child were both quite concerned.  As hard as I tried to stifle it, I laughed because when the prayer request started I knew what was coming.  In the prayer time I believe I prayed something the effect of “Thank you, God for children’s imaginations.  May they know, even in their play, you are in control and you heal.”

  • What prompted you to begin traveling on a Scooter and have you ever had a wreck on it?

The cost of the scooter and the gas mileage fits our needs and resources best.

No.

  • We know you love to cook. What is your favorite dish to prepare?

To prepare?  Well, that could be any number of things but I’ll stick to two meals I love to prepare as well as eat.  One would be whole-wheat & oatmeal pancakes with butterscotch chips, brown-sugar bacon, and frozen blueberries with cream and sugar.  The other would be chicken-fried steak, mashed potatoes and gravy, cream peas, biscuits with butter and sorghum syrup, sweet tea, and Donna’s chocolate pie with Cool-Whip.  And if you put picante sauce on that steak, you’ll slap yourself it’s so good.

  • What would you want for a last meal? And who would you eat it with?

See the above chicken fried steak meal and add Double-Stuff Oreos for good measure with ice cold milk.  And I’d eat it with my family and a few select friends.  Likely less than 15 or so around the table.

  • Favorite Book? 

That’s hard, very hard.  Apart from the Bible and various other Christian classics, I’ll say The Firm by John Grisham and This Present Darkness by Frank Peretti.  I could not put either book down.  And, as crazy as it sounds, I still love The Boxcar Children.  Esther’s Gift by Jan Karon makes me cry every time I read it.  So does Charlotte’s Web.  The Long Winter by Laura Ingles Wilder is very good, too.  It shows the incredible strength and fortitude of our early settlers.  Like I said, that is a hard question to answer.

  • What is your favorite movie of all time?

To watch with my kids:  Princess Bride

To watch with Donna:  When Harry Met Sally

To watch with me:  O Brother, Where Art Thou?

 


April 2013

Dear Lanes Chapel Family: 

As I sit here writing to you, we are already into the month of March. The clocks have been changed. The trees are budding. The sun is shining brightly bringing us the promise of warmer days. Spring is upon us and beautiful days lie ahead. Yet, I still can’t help but look back. 

I look back upon the year that has been for us at Lanes Chapel. Just over a year ago, I was dropped into your lap by the leaders of the Annual Conference. You were told, “Here is your new pastor.” I was told, “You are their new pastor.” Then, they just left us to sort of figure it out. 

Well, through the help of God Almighty, we are figuring it out. Even before our move here, he was already at work. He prepared my family and me for you; and he prepared this church and you for me. I could not have planned or orchestrated this. Only the Holy Spirit could do something this great and this well. So all thanks, praise, and glory goes to him. 

This past year has been amazing. The Holy Spirit has moved in many powerful ways. He has empowered us to do greater things than we could have ever done ourselves. And he will still do the same for years to come. 

So, I look back with great joy as to what has been, but I look forward with great excitement and anticipation to what will be. I cannot even begin to fathom all that God is going to do for us. 

Another thought along those lines as I start my second year – Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! Thank you all for the wonderful surprise on our first anniversary Sunday. I was blown away by your outpouring of love and affection. If you’ve ever wondered if 600 people can keep a secret, they can. My family and I had no clue about all that had been planned for us. The lunch was great and the anniversary gift for Donna and me – a trip to San Antonio is a tremendous blessing. 

The challenge to it all was not calling my counterparts in the ministry to tell them of your wonderful love and affection. I couldn’t because I knew that most of them did not get such a gift on their first anniversaries at their respective churches. I didn’t want to gloat too much. I finally told a few, and they are understandably envious. 

Thanks, again, my friends. This past year has been wonderful and in know the years ahead will be even better. 

In Christ, 

Jeff Gage

 


May 2013

 Dear Lanes Chapel Family, 

Oftentimes in conversations with my friends who are not a part of the Lanes Chapel family, they ask me to tell them about Lanes Chapel. “What is it like?” “How would you describe it?” “How is it different than other churches you have been a part of?” When we first arrived here, I always had to stop and think as I was still new to LCUMC. I was still learning more and more about this blessed place. Now, though, I do not have to consider my first response. I have learned very much about what defines Lanes Chapel. It is love. We love each other in the church, and we love those who are not a part of the church. This love shows by how we wel-come in those who are new to the family. We are a church that loves others, knowing that each is a precious gift, a child of God. What a wonderful identity to have! 

Recently, I received an email from Mark Fries, a former member of our church who is now living and working in Florida. In his email, he shared of how he was loved by this congregation. Everyone he met welcomed him in. The love he received and the example of how to live a Christian life from his Lanes Chapel family was evident everywhere. For Mark, it made a profound difference in his life. He writes, “Everyone there was an inspiration to me and only continued to share and show me the right path to live.” Those models for living are what carry him through to this day. 

Mark also shared about some other things he learned at Lanes Chapel, primarily the love and forgiveness of Jesus Christ that he has ex-perienced through us. Because it was so precious to him, he encourages us to continue to share it with others. That forgiveness, coupled with our love and welcome is what helped grow his faith; and it will be what ushers others like Mark into the kingdom of God as well. We must model it continually. 

Let us continue to be a people of love, showing that everybody is truly somebody at Lanes Chapel and Jesus Christ is our Lord. That love is, and should always be what defines us. 

God bless you all, 

Jeff 

***As an ending note, the welcome and love that Mark received here is not one he has received in other churches since moving away from Tyler. Please pray that he can find a church home, and pray that other churches will become as we are, a church that loves. 

 


June 2013

Dear Lanes Chapel, 

One the facets of reading the Bible that has always fascinated me is that in some, if not many cases, we are given the intimate privilege to listen-in on someone else’s conversation. We can “eavesdrop” by reading the letters, stories, and instructions that were passed from one person or group of people to another. That is true with the historical narratives, the Psalms, and especially the letters that are in the New Testament. 

In the letters of the New Testament, we get to read everything from great words of love and appreciation, to words of instruction, to just a good old fashioned tongue lashing. (I wonder how Euodia and Syntyche would feel to know that all of Christendom has pondered what they disagreed about for 2000 years. We don’t know what difference came between them, but because of Paul’s letter, we know they had some sort of falling out. To see what I mean, read Philippians 4:2.) 

For that more positive aspect of words of love and affection, I go to the beginning of Paul’s letter to Timothy. 

ESV 1 Timothy 1:1-2: 1 Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by command of God our Savior and of Christ Jesus our hope, 2 to Timothy, my true child in the faith: Grace, mercy, and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Lord. 

Timothy was a young man who came to a relationship with Jesus Christ through the ministry of Paul. We often consider Timothy to be Paul’s spiritual son, a sentiment Paul echoes in his address to Timothy, “Timothy, my true child in the faith.” They had a relationship that saw Paul take Timothy from one who did not believe in Christ to one who became a trusted friend and confidant, and eventually a leader in the church of Ephesus. The two of them shared a very special and deep relationship. 

As I reflect on Paul and Timothy and that phrase “my true child in the faith,” I am inspired at how Paul “birthed” Timothy into a relationship with Jesus Christ and then nurtured his faith in Christ. He walked with Timothy as he grew in his love for Christ. What an inspiration for us all! 

In response to that inspiration, I ask you, “Who is your “spiritual child?” Do you have one? If so, call him. Send her a text message. See how their walk with Christ is today. If not, pray the Lord will send you someone you can nurture and bring into a relationship with Christ. He will send you one. 

On the flipside, do you have a “spiritual parent?” If you do, thank God for his or her ministry. He did much for you and for the kingdom of God when he introduced you to Christ. She likely spent many hours on her knees interceding for you, praying you into the kingdom. Give thanks for all of those who have shown us Christ and worked to bring us into a relationship with him. May we all follow their lead and live by their example. 

God bless you all, 

Jeff Gage 

 


July 2013

Dear Lanes Chapel Family, 

Every day I/we turn on the news or read an article in the paper, on the internet, or in a maga-zine and are bombarded with stories from all over the spectrum – politically, emotionally, theologically, and so on. Some of the stories are uplifting. They make us feel good or give us a little boost to help us make it through our day. They are the “A Puppy Was Saved from the Drainage Ditch” type of story. Newscasts seem to always end with those stories as if to “wash out our ears” before signing off. 

Many stories inform us of things we might not already know. They are about advances in medi-cal technology or news about political changes from various parts of the globe. Our knowl-edge increases because we are staying well-versed on current events. 

We can read and see stories and articles run the gamut. Some true, some humorous, some upsetting, some enriching. 

The challenge we face when we read or hear anything is to run it through a filter. Yes, we all have various filters, but we need to keep one filter the same, and that is the filter of scripture. Everything we read and hear – especially when it involves the church, the Bible and Biblical history, and the nature of Jesus Christ – needs to be filtered through the lens of the truth of scripture. We need to keep that lens in the forefront of our minds and evaluate how all other things line up with its truth. 

This practice is not new to us, of course. Paul warned Timothy of many of these same dangers. In 1 Timothy 1:3-4, Paul instructs Timothy: 

3As I urged you upon my departure for Macedonia, remain on at Ephesus so that you may instruct certain men not to teach strange doctrines, 4nor to pay attention to myths and endless genealogies, which give rise to mere speculation rather than fur-thering the administration of God which is by faith. 

Timothy was facing an onslaught of teachers who taught strange doctrines, outright myths, and speculation about (what was likely) Old Testament genealogies. These teachers did nothing but destroy the faith of the church and bring about doubt and, I am sure, foster a lot of arguments among the believers. These teachers did nothing to further the growth and faith of the church. Much like today. 

The stories we read and hear from supposed experts in the field of Biblical scholarship and from those who want to dampen the truth of scripture and diminish the definition of sin do nothing to help the church. Sinful choices and “alternate lifestyles” are extolled while Christ is scorned – even by self-professed Christians. It is sad and destructive to the church. These strange doctrines give rise to specula-tion and doubt. 

Always be on the lookout for these stories. Pray that you can recognize them for what they are. Evaluate them; prayerfully evaluate them through the eternal truth of scripture. If something contradicts scripture, it is not true. We serve an awesome, unchanging God. His word stands forever. His doctrine is not strange. It is true. Jesus saves. 

In His Service, 

Jeff Gage

 


August 2013

Dear Lanes Chapel Family, 

Now that August is here, as crazy as it sounds, school will be starting again soon. The stores are already putting out back to school supplies and advertising their specials on TV. It seems like just yesterday when we were getting graduation announcements in the mail. 

Each year when school starts, I can’t help but think back upon my own educational journey from the very beginning with Mr. & Mrs. Dent in kindergarten to Dr. Jerry Walls, Dr. Elsworth Kalas, and Professor Don Boyd in my last year at seminary. Each step along the way, in each stage of my education I had some wonderful teachers. The overwhelming majority of them were very good and passionate about their jobs, and I learned so much from them. They left an indelible mark upon my life. 

Isn’t that what we all want for our children – and ourselves? Good teachers? We want someone who is talented, passionate, and loving; someone who engages our interest, teaches us things and inspires us to want to study and learn more – even on our own. We want that. We need that. It doesn’t always happen, though. Every now and then, we encounter teachers who are not effective or who do not engage our interest. That can be frustrating and sad. 

We are not the first to have ineffective teachers. The early church had them, too. In Timothy 1:5-7, Paul address that. 

5 But the goal of our instruction is love from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith. 6 For some men, straying from these things, have turned aside to fruitless discussion, 7 wanting to be teachers of the Law, even though they do not understand either what they are saying or the matters about which they make confident assertions. 

There were those in the church who tried to step into the role of being a teacher of the Law who should have directed their energies somewhere else. They did not keep love, a good conscience, and sincere faith as their goals. Instead, they strayed from these and filled their time with “fruitless discussions.” They did not understand what they were saying or affirming. These men should have done other things besides teaching the Law. It was unfortunate they had either been chosen for or worked their way into the job of teaching. I am sure, like students today, the members of the first century church were disen-gaged and frustrated by the experience. 

So let us pray for our school children and for our teachers. Pray that our children all have good effective teachers that spark the children’s interest to learn. Pray for our teachers that they will keep love, a good conscience, and faith as their goals. Pray they will be passionate about their work and successful in their task of educating the next generation. God bless our students. God bless our teachers. 

In His Service, 

Jeff Gage

 


September 2013

Dear Lanes Chapel Family: 

Recently, I have been peppered with a continual barrage of the question, “Well, what do you think about it today?” And I have to say, “I don’t know. I just wish I could stop hearing about it every day.” 

The “it” is the story about Johnny Manziel, the quarterback for Texas A&M, and whether or not he took money to sign his autograph on sports memorabilia. As a college athlete that is against the rules. If he did break those rules, he could be suspended from the football team 

indefinitely; a move that would be a blow to the Texas A&M football team. 

So many questions arise in the matter because some say he broke the rules; he says he didn’t. There is a continual back and forth. Whom do we believe? Shady sports memorabilia dealers? Heisman Trophy Winning Quarterback Johnny Manziel? 

Because of their less than stellar reputation many have trouble taking the word of the autograph hounds. The verb “lurk” is often used in news articles to describe their actions. Because some of Manziel’s past escapades have been brought to public light, many wonder how he can keep a straight-face while proclaiming his innocence in anything. It produces a quandary. It should not have to, though. 

If the involved parties would always do what is right, whether in public or in private, there would never be any question. If they were above reproach, there would never be any doubt. We would believe their stories. 

That is true for them. That is true for us. If we always do what is right, if we are above reproach, there would never be any question. Others would always believe our stories. It is akin to telling the truth. If we always tell the truth, we never have to remember the lies we told. If we always do what is right, there is never any doubt about what we have done. We would never have problems with the rules. We would never have any problem with the Law. The Law, meaning the laws of God. For the Apostle Paul, the Law was the Old Testament Law. For us, I see it to be simply the law of love that Jesus dictates, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind; and love your neighbor as yourself.” 

In 1 Timothy 1:8-11, Paul talks about the Law. He says it is good – if one uses it lawfully. It is good for those who keep it. The law only causes a problem for those who break it. For those who keep it, for those who love the law, it is truly good. Psalm 119:165 says, “Great peace have they who love your law, and nothing can make them stumble.” Peace comes to those who love God’s law. 

To gain peace, I encourage you to fall in love with the law of God. Love God. Love your neighbor. Love yourself. If you will do that, there will never be any question about your actions or motives. Those who love are truly great in the kingdom of heaven. 

There is just very little market for their autographs. 

Blessings to you this month, 


Jeff 


October 2013

Dear Lanes Chapel Family, 

Like many of you, I love the hymn, Amazing Grace.  It has long been a favorite of mine.  It was written by the former slave trader, John Newton, who experienced a personal and vocational transformation when he truly accepted the love of Christ for himself and became a Christian.  As one who formerly shipped and traded humans as if they were cattle, he understood the life changing grace of Christ very well.  His hymn tells of how he was lost but is now found; he was blind, but now he sees.  Such power.

The expanse of the reach of that hymn never ceases to amaze me.  It is so common.  At key moments when our nation grieves in mass for the victims of tragedies such as Sept. 11 or workplace shooting sprees such as the one that recently occurred at the Washington, D.C. Naval Yard, it seems as if many if not most in the crowd can sing at least the first verse.

In planning funerals, I ask family members of the deceased about possible hymns to be played or sung.  If they know no other, they can always recall, “Amazing Grace, I like that one.”  That’s good, I just hope and pray they fully understand the breadth and depth of the grace of God beyond a timeless hymn though.

Friends, we must never take the grace of God for granted.  That soul-saving grace that is available to us through faith in Christ comes at the price of the life of Christ.  Jesus Christ died that we might experience that grace.  It is by that grace that we are saved.  It is that grace that causes God to overlook our sinful ways and forgive us.  That grace is truly amazing, no pun intended.

Paul writes of that grace in 1 Timothy 1:12-14.

12 I thank Christ Jesus our Lord, who has given me strength, that he considered me faithful, appointing me to his service.  13 Even though I was once a blasphemer and a persecutor and a violent man, I was shown mercy because I acted in ignorance and unbelief.  14 The grace of our Lord was poured out on me abundantly, along with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus.

Because of the grace of God, Paul was a changed man.  When he experienced it for himself, he went from a invective-spewing, Christian-hating Pharisee to a Christ-loving, humanity-serving, slave of Jesus.  His faith and love grew daily because of Christ.  Because of his transformation, we have his writings, over thirty percent of the New Testament, which guide and shape much of our Christian walk and life.  What a blessing and gift – all because Paul experienced the life changing amazing grace of God through Jesus Christ. 

I wonder, how has the grace of God changed your life?  What evidence do others see in your life that give evidence of that change?  What is so amazing about the grace of God to you?  Thank God for his amazing grace.  Why not hum a few bars after you pray a prayer of thanksgiving right now?

God bless you,

Jeff

 


November 2013

The October 19, 2013 edition of WORLD Magazine had this picture in its pages as part of their “Dispatches” section. 

 The caption was as follows: 

FEARING GOD MORE THAN MAN: At All Saints Church in Peshawar, Pakistani Christians who survived a Sept. 22 suicide bombing, the worst attack on Christians in the country’s history, returned to the church to pray – the next day. 

The blast killed 127 and injured 170 others. 

And American Christians stay home from church because it might rain this morning. 

Their dedication in the face of persecution inspires me. 

Jeff