Welcome to Saint Paul’s

In coming to our website, I realize you might have many questions. You might be excited about finding a church to belong to, or you might be a bit fearful from bad church experiences in the past. If you are looking for a church that focuses on creating spiritual fruits, not religious nuts, then you have come to the right place.

I hope the information on this website will help you feel more comfortable with visiting us in person and knowing more about who we are. Feel free to email me if you have any further questions that are not covered here.
 
Our Mission statement at St. Paul’s says a lot about who we are and what we do:

 

As a Christian family of faith,
Saint Paul’s affirms God’s love by
transforming lives,
connecting generations,
impacting our community & world,
and
making disciples for Jesus Christ.

 
Affirming God’s Love by
transforming lives:
Here at St. Paul’s we believe that we are supposed to transform peoples’ lives for the better because of our Christian faith. Whether it is feeding people who are hungry, giving hope to the hopeless, or voice to the voiceless, faith is not just for our own benefit, but is supposed to be for the whole world!
Matthew 25:31-46
 
Affirming God’s love by
connecting generations:
Here at St. Paul’s we believe that connecting generations is a key part of how we affirm God’s love. We believe in ministry that serves the needs of particular age groups but also connects generations together. This can be seen when our Children & Youth make and deliver gifts to our homebound members, and when our younger members are welcomed to be a part of our adult ministries. We believe that it does take a village to raise a child, and that we all benefit when we are all involved in age-related ministries.
Matthew 19:13-15, Mark 10:13-16, Luke 18:15-17
 
Affirming God’s love by
impacting our community & world:
Here at St. Paul’s we believe that our faith needs to have an impact in our community (through local ministries such as Interfaith Emergency Services and Open Arms Village) and our world (through projects such as our Pillowcase Dresses, Prayer Quilts, and Stop Hunger Now).
Matthew 5:13-16
 
Affirming God’s love by
making disciples for Jesus Christ:
Here at St. Paul’s we believe that the core mission of the church to which all our activities point is to make people into disciples (followers) of Jesus Christ.
Matthew 28:18-20
 
St. Paul’s Christian School shares its campus with us and many of the families in our church and school come from the surrounding neighborhood. In this quiet, picturesque corner of Ocala we are kind of like the neighborhood park – you’re likely to see families playing on our playground, couples taking a stroll around the campus, someone sitting for a prayer in our Memorial Garden, or our Scouts having a meeting at the fire pit. This image is really the vision we have for St. Paul’s: a place that offers God’s grace, love and comfort to the people around us.
 
Want to know more?  Come and see what we’re all about!
 
In Christ,
 
Robert

Robert’s Blog

This Act of Grace…

Way back on Pentecost Sunday, we entered the season of the church known as “Sundays after Pentecost,” and known by some of you who are more liturgically sensitive as “ordinary time.” You may have noticed headings in your bulletin that told you just how far away we were from Pentecost—twenty Sundays, twenty-one, twenty-two… It can seem like we’re getting farther and farther from that exciting season of candlelight, resurrection, Christmas carols and memories. In the church calendar, it can seem like we’re getting farther away from the source of our light, and the long-named Sundays can seem almost depressing because they remind us how long it’s been since we sang “Go, Tell it On the Mountain” or “Up from the Grave He Arose.” However, there is another way to see things: the “ordinary time” isn’t boring, but rather a time to put into practice the growth we’ve experienced during the first half of the Christian year: Advent through Pentecost Sunday. As the Sundays after Pentecost come to a close here in the secular month of November, we’ve got a lot of celebration and ministry to work toward in the name of Jesus. Each Sunday in November we’ll be preparing for Thanksgiving Sunday by participating in a “progressive” food drive for Interfaith. Each Sunday, we invite you to bring a certain item to worship, where we will add it to our overall collection we give to Interfaith on Thanksgiving Sunday, Nov. 18. On November 4, bring canned veggies and fruit to worship. On November 11, we ask that you bring boxed Potato and Rice mixes. On November 18, as we end our item drive, we ask that you bring canned proteins. During worship on that Sunday, you’ll be invited to go out shopping with our youth as they bring in the harvest to add to the collection. We’ll have a hymn-sing service for those who do not wish to go shopping, and we’ll celebrate as our shoppers come back at the end of worship with their harvest! Interfaith is still experiencing a critical shortage of food, so let’s do our best to help those in need! May God bless you as you bless others this November! ~Robert  



It’s the WHY of Supporting St. Paul’s Ministries

 
When we take the vows to join St. Paul’s, we promise to support this congregation with our prayers, presence, gifts, service, and witness.  Being good stewards of God’s church means that we participate in the mission of the whole church to make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world.  The mission of St. Paul’s UMC to affirm God’s love by transforming lives, connecting generations, impacting our community and world as well as making disciples for Jesus Christ is a compliment to the larger church’s mission.  However, these are simply rules to follow, and you need the why of those promises.  Why do we do all this?  Why do we study this every year as we prepare for next year’s ministry impact?  Knowing the why makes a huge difference!
The why is because of God’s grace toward us.  Grace is defined as the “undeserved, unmerited, and loving action of God in human existence through the ever-present Holy Spirit,” and when we realize just how amazing this grace is, we will act upon it with transformative love toward God and the world around us.  Everything we do will then be an Act of Grace – what an amazing way to live!  As the late evangelist Billy Graham said, “When you accept Christ, the holy spirit must live in you and express himself through you.”  That’s acting under the influence of grace! As we approach next year’s grace-fueled mission, volunteers on the Stewardship Team have set some goals for our ministry next year.  Adopt these as your own personal goals as you pray about how you and your family will support St. Paul’s with your prayer, presence, gifts, service, and witness.  Each of these goals is equally important, covering each area of our membership covenant:
  • Prayers: each member of the congregation will commit to praying once a day.
  • Presence: each member will worship in some Christian form of community (church being the primary one) once a week.

o   You’re encouraged to be creative as you worship in community with other Christians.

o   Do all you can to come to St. Paul’s, but if that is not possible, find a community to worship wherever you are: whether it’s in the car as you travel, in another location where you currently are, or whatever creative solution you can find. 

  • Gifts: each member will work toward tithing if they are not already tithing.

o   While the Finance Committee is still gathering figures for the 2019 Budget, it appears that the budget will increase over last year due to continued investments in ministry and growth.

  • Service: every member of the congregation will commit to be involved in some form of regular service.
  • Witness: every member of the congregation will focus on finding their heartburst for ministry

o   A heartburst is a sudden, powerful, divine, urgent and compelling desire to help that particular stranger (or group of strangers) experience the grace that they need most. ~Thomas G. Bandy

o   What is your “why?” for ministry?

o   If you’ve found it, keep going

o   If you haven’t- keep intentionally listening to God’s voice

Join us for a four-part worship series on stewardship called This Act of Grace. Each week we will hear stories of God’s abundant grace toward us, focusing on the different ways in which we respond to his grace. The themes for each week are “By His Grace” (based on Romans 3:24), “God’s Varied Grace” (1 Peter 4:10), “My Grace is Sufficient (2 Corinthians 12:9), “This Act of Grace” (2 Corinthians 8:9) and “Responsible Grace” (Psalm 145), which will be our Commitment Sunday when we consecrate our 2019 Commitments on altar and pray over our common mission together.  Grace us with your presence, as God will grace us with his.


Stewardship Series Coming Up!

‘twas grace that taught my heart to fear

and grace my fears relieved

how precious did that grace appear

the hour I first believed

 

This beloved and well-known hymn, “Amazing Grace, points out the powerful effects of grace upon the life of a Christian. Rev. John Newton, who wrote this hymn, begins with the acknowledgement that God’s grace has saved someone—a wretch—like him. This grace teaches our hearts to fear the right things (God) and relieve the fears we have that are insubstantial and keep us from connecting with God. This kind of re-orientation of our hearts that happens when we first believe is precious and priceless, and forms the foundation of our faith. God’s grace forgives us and shows us God’s great love for us; and this empowers us to live a life that is, in the words of another hymn, “forgiven, loved, and free.

Starting in September, join us for a five-part worship series on stewardship called This Act of Grace. Each week we will hear stories of God’s abundant grace toward us, focusing on the different ways in which we respond to His grace. The themes for each week are “By His Grace” (based on Romans 3:24), “God’s Varied Grace” (1 Peter 4:10), “My Grace is Sufficient (2 Corinthians 12:9), “This Act of Grace” (2 Corinthians 8:9), and “Responsible Grace” (Psalm 145). Grace us with your presence, as God will grace us with His!

During worship this month, we’ve got a lot of grace-fueled ministries to celebrate such as the Backpacks for Kids ministry at Interfaith Emergency Services and Peace by Piece; so come be a part of grace in action!

 

~ Robert

 



It’s Back to School Time!!!!

The turn of the calendar is a signal to us that things are changing, and soon we’ll be talking with our friends, family, and church about the upcoming holidays. Some of us grieve over summer, and I can certainly understand why, but the Bible tells us that “for everything there is a season, and a time for every activity under heaven” in Ecclesiastes 3:1 (NLT).  These patterns of the year are more than drudgery or lost opportunities; they are future opportunities for us, individually and collectively, to Be Jesus in our workplaces, our schools, our “watering holes,” or wherever else we happen to be.

I was speaking to someone the other day who was telling me about a missionary that visited her church to give a talk about his mission work in a foreign country.  When asked about how he and his family spread Christianity, he said they start with something God has already gifted him for: fixing cars.  Like the Apostle Paul, he plies his trade and prayerfully builds relationships with local auto mechanics and neighbors, teaching them what he knows, which turns into “get to know you” type conversation, then to conversation about faith in Jesus.  He’ll end up doing prayer and Bible Study with local mechanics that might turn into a worship service as it grows.  Through simply getting to know the people in town, he begins to build a church!

With the declining trust and influence of Christianity in our society today, we all need to become missionaries wherever God has placed us.  The times have changed, as Ecclesiastes tells us they will; and many people will simply never consider going to a church because they’ve never been to one before.  This change requires missionaries instead of showy religious spectacles.

So how can you become a missionary?  You don’t need to preach to a stadium, nor do you need any supernatural gifts or to memorize any sort of formula.  All you need is to prayerfully get to know your neighbors and pray for God to open doors for the Gospel.  As you have more of these conversations, you might want to start praying for each other and/or reading the Bible together.  As you head into the new calendar of the school year, be a missionary by getting to know your neighbors and see how God uses it!

May God bless this season!  ~Robert



Lent Devotional Week 4: Christ the Healer

Lenten Devotional: Week 4- Christ the Healer
 
Our Lenten Challenge
God calls all of us to set aside the 40 days before Easter, the season of Lent, to be a time of preparation. We honor this call knowing that on Easter morning our efforts will be rewarded with a renewed sense of hope and awe as we celebrate the resurrection of Christ.
Each week of Lent will include a weekly devotional. Try to answer one question a day, reading the scripture and meditating on its meaning in your life. If you’re having trouble, talk to God or a trusted friend about it. Keep reading the scripture, ask others and involve them in this process. You may be surprised at the results! But whatever you do, do not give up. Lent is about strengthening faith, and like any good muscle, strength in faith requires exercise!
Bring your devotionals back to church each Sunday, and put them in the basket on the altar. Let the time you spend studying and reflecting be part of your offering to God during Lent this year.
 
This week’s Scripture Reading:
Matthew 8:14-17
 
14 Jesus went home with Peter and saw Peter’s mother-in-law lying in bed with a fever. 15 He touched her hand, and the fever left her. Then she got up and served them. 16 That evening people brought to Jesus many who were demon-possessed. He threw the spirits out with just a word. He healed everyone who was sick. 17 This happened so that what Isaiah the prophet said would be fulfilled: “He is the one who took our illnesses and carried away our diseases.”
*****
Acts of healing, along with Jesus’ teaching about money, are one of the more common themes in the Gospels. They almost seem supernatural and exaggerated as we look at them through our modern eyes. Today, we have doctors and other health professionals who do the healing, and many are convinced that these Gospel healings were just fanciful “fairy tales.”
As Matthew tells us his story of the life of Christ, however, we can’t ignore that healing was a large part of Jesus’ ministry. So, in belief or unbelief, why did Matthew and the other Gospel writers include so many healing stories? What is God, through these Gospel writers, trying to teach us about the Christ? What are these Bible stories trying to teach us about ourselves? Can we still be healed by God?


Warm-up for Worship!

 
You’re invited to worship on Sunday at St. Paul’s! Lent is a season of looking inward as we prepare ourselves to celebrate Easter. Our theme this year is centered on Jesus’s question to his disciples: “Who do you say that I am?” This week we look at Christ as “The Great High Priest” from Matthew 6:5-15 and Hebrews 9:23-28. A priest, whatever title they may have, mediates between God and the people of God, and in ancient Judaism that took the role of offering animal sacrifices on the altar as a sin offering to God.
Jesus, as our Great High Priest, however, offers himself on the altar as a sacrifice for the sins of the whole world, ending the sacrificial system of bloodshed and allowing us to have a direct relationship with God. He is our mediator and offers us a share of God’s infinite forgiveness if we share in the sacrifice. In seeing Jesus this way, how can we grow to be more faithful and forgiving Christians? Let’s open our hearts, our minds and our Bibles as we worship God and see Christ as the great high priest. 
See you at 10:30! 
~Robert
 
 


Lent Devotional-Week2: Buddy Jesus or Suffering Servant?

Our Lenten Challenge

God calls all of us to set aside the 40 days before Easter, the season of Lent, to be a time of preparation.   We honor this call knowing that on Easter morning our efforts will be rewarded with a renewed sense of hope and awe as we celebrate the resurrection of Christ. 

Each week of Lent will include a weekly devotional.  Try to answer one question a day, reading the scripture and meditating on its meaning in your life.  If you’re having trouble, talk to God or a trusted friend about it.  Keep reading the scripture, ask others and involve them in this process.  You may be surprised at the results!  But whatever you do, do not give up.  Lent is about strengthening faith, and like any good muscle, strength in faith requires exercise!

Bring your devotionals back to church each Sunday, and put them in the basket on the altar.  Let the time you spend studying and reflecting be part of your offering to God during Lent this year. 

This week’s scripture reading:

Mark 8:31-38

31 Then he began to teach them that the Son of Man must undergo great suffering, and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests, and the scribes, and be killed, and after three days rise again. 32 He said all this quite openly. And Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. 33 But turning and looking at his disciples, he rebuked Peter and said, “Get behind me, Satan! For you are setting your mind not on divine things but on human things.”

34 He called the crowd with his disciples, and said to them, “If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. 35 For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake, and for the sake of the gospel, will save it. 36 For what will it profit them to gain the whole world and forfeit their life? 37 Indeed, what can they give in return for their life? 38 Those who are ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of them the Son of Man will also be ashamed when he comes in the glory of his Father with the holy angels.”

*****

In a “pain-killer” culture, this passage has a lot of difficult things to say to us about suffering, and about Jesus’ place in it.  Why did Jesus have to suffer?  Didn’t he come to make our lives “positive” and “prosperous?” Aren’t we promised that if we follow Christ, we won’t have to suffer? The short answer, frankly, is “no.” The image of Jesus as the “Suffering Servant,” who does God’s will no matter what the cost, is often hard to swallow, especially when so many TV preachers promise us prosperity in following Jesus. Much danger lies in concluding that suffering and self-sacrifice are undesirable in the Christian life.  They may, in fact, be necessary, as Jesus’ own life tells us. He had many wonderful things happen to him as a result of following God, but he also was killed for it.

All of the disciples, as they left Jerusalem after Easter and began to preach the Gospel to the world, encountered suffering. All ages of Christianity have had suffering servants, and they give us an awe-inspiring picture of faith amid hardship, just like Jesus.  Even today, we may lose our job, be denied promotions, or lose friends & family because of our faith in Christ. However, if we have the confidence & faith to know Who is with us in the suffering, it makes the pain of doing God’s will small compared to the eternal pain of not doing God’s will. Salvation through Christ carries with it a promise and a warning: everyone can be confident at the final judgment that Jesus will follow the Golden Rule – he will treat us the way we have treated him, no matter whether the road was paved with suffering or not!