Pastor’s Ponderings 
Pondering December 2021
Pondering July 2021

Pastor’s Pondering July 2020

It’s summer time! They consider 100 degrees not out of the ordinary and it promises to be a hot summer — in so many ways. Often people advise that one should not talk about religion or politics to keep conversations civilized. By the same token I am a pastor and hence it is my privilege and duty to bring religion — or better proper relationship with the divine — to the forefront of conversations and decisions. Add to that the idea that my ministry is to comfort the afflicted and to afflict the comfortable, you understand that my most likely place at the table is to sit between the chairs.

Marion and I have lived over a quarter of a century in Texas. When we first arrived we were amazed by the kindness and friendliness of the folk we met. H.E.B. would be closed on July 4th and everybody had to do last minute shopping. There would be a concert in one of the parks in Austin with a firework as the climax. People gathered not just peacefully, but joyfully, appreciating the tremendous gift of peace and justice our great nation has to offer. The hottest and most fierce debate used to be the question how to properly smoke a brisket. Precious memories.

Fast forward to the present time. People are hiding behind masks either for concerns relating to the covid-19 virus, or because they are determined to change the nation by means of violence destroying priceless artifacts that they consider ill-fitting with no regards for different opinions, our history, leave alone facts. I did do some studies in art history and while one does not have to agree with particular events and / or outcomes, destroying reminders of the past is not helpful and will in the long cripple our ability to learn from the past and make better choices.

For those who are still reading this pondering, “THANK YOU!” We all see the challenges, but are there also some answers in the making? The short answer is “yes” and we will get to those shortly. (I know, a dangling participle is bad style) I heard it said that Abraham Lincoln remarked, that the philosophy taught in this generation’s school houses will be the philosophy of the next generation’s government. Looking at the young age of many of the protesters it seems reasonable to ask, who taught them what?

The Book of Proverbs reminds us, “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and instruction.” (Prov. 1:7, NIV) When we fail to teach those around us that the United States of America is “one Nation under God”, we are doing them a dis-service. If you are truly interested in the Judeo-Christian roots of the United States of America I do recommend

For right now the question at hand is, how will we teach our children and grandchildren the important lessons? For the answer I will turn — of course — to the manual referred to as B.I.B.L.E. (Basic Instruction Before Leaving Earth). The following passage was actually used by our LORD and Savior Jesus Christ to teach His contemporaries. “Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one. Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates.” (Deuteronomy 6:4-9, NIV).

For the United States of America to recover and succeed we need to return to the GOD of our fathers. The founding fathers did not set out to create a society out of nothing, but they used important principles, many of them found in the Judeo-Christian Scriptures. Let’s take the above passage and see which steps we can identify.

  1. “Hear, O Israel” We need to be willing to listen to GOD’s guidance. The Hebrew word for hearing in this context is “SCHMAE” and it has several meanings. They are, to hear, to listen, and to obey. Individually as well as as a nation we need to listen to what GOD has to say to us, because we are one nation under GOD. You want leaders who listen to GOD and find themselves accountable to more than an impersonal higher power.
  2. “Love the LORD you GOD with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength.” Out of our relationship with GOD all other relationships will be fueled and directed. Do not allow for anyone to tell you that GOD should be kept outside of government. As we are loving GOD we will make discipled decisions. July, the official “birth month’ of our nation, and it is important. To acknowledge that we are living in a social construct that is probably best described as a constitutional republic whose heart is found in the Declaration of Independence.
    After World War II West Germany was given a constitution and a form of government that received input and guidance from the historical documents that were written at the founding of the USA. The “ruler” of such a republic are the people. The elected officials are called “public servants” for a reason.
  3. “Impress them on your children.” It is the family’s responsibility to impress biblical worldview, standards, and commandments on to the minds of the young ones, and surround them with an environment that is GOD honoring, healthy, and based on godly individualism.

There is so much more to this passage. Hopefully, we can use this as a springboard into some spirited discussion. We cannot pretend that everything is fine and go about our lives like nothing has ever happened. We need to take a more active approach in the raising of future generations in a godly manner.

Pray for another awakening to draw our nation back to the Creator GOD that has not only endowed us with certain inalienable rights, among these, life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, but also given us the key to eternal live through His only begotten Son, Jesus Christ.

In CHRIST’s Unfailing Love

Pastor J. Paul <><

The Pastor’s Pondering June 2020
Rev. J. Paul Bruhn
By now we have had three weeks of live church and it is a joy seeing individuals sitting in the blue pews and participating in the service. It was really hard for me to preach to an empty sanctuary when we only recorded the worship services. As time progresses and healing continues it is my hope that we will grow again in numbers. This spring season truly helped us to grow in unexpected ways. In addition to live worship we are now providing Sunday morning radio on AM1460 KCWM, 10:00 am sharp as well as Facebook live. Since AM1460 can also be reached over their website we are now offering worship in four different ways. And I hear from different recipients how much they enjoy the newfound flexibility – leave alone the glorious option to have Sunday morning church on Monday afternoon.
I did borrow the included image from a friend of mine on Facebook because instead of shutting churches down it feels like we are having more presentations of the Good News of Jesus Christ than four months ago. Meditating about this development the LORD brought a particular Scripture passage to mind:
Deuteronomy 6:4–9 (NIV84)
4 Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one.
5 Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength.
6 These commandments that I give you today are to be upon your hearts.
7 Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.
8 Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads.
9 Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates.
GOD always intended for all of His people to be messengers – priests – of His Kingdom (see Exodus 19:6 and 1 Peter 2:9) … Come on get out your Bibles, I am waiting ;o) If you need any further proof we can turn to Acts 2:42-47 and it becomes clear that the first century believers worshipped in a centralized place, i.e. the Temple, but they also had daily gatherings from house to house. We know that the early church (Continued on page 2)
in the city of Corinth, population estimated 100,000 to 150,000, had about 150 church members. No temple, no big building but neighborhood groups, house churches, coming together in worship and learning how to share the Kingdom of GOD in a hostile environment.
Instead of bemoaning the recent changes we can accept the challenge to develop a modern-day pattern for home church. We are called to make Christ central in our everyday lives, carrying Christ in our hearts and sharing Him with family, friends, and neighbors. Special attention is given here to “impress” the faith on our children. And we are here to help.
We will provide a new kind of Vacation Bible School (VBS). In the middle of July we will offer a complete VBS program via the internet with videos, games, music, fun sketches, activities all scaled so you can create a wonderful experience right in your home’s backyard. BOLT VBS will make the Christian faith real and you can dial in at your convenience, morning, afternoon, or evening. You might even choose to invite some of your children’s friends to join y’all in the fun. Let us know if your internet is too slow so we can provide the video and music files for your family in a different medium. Look out for more information on our website and let us know if you are interested. Just send an email to and put “VBS 2020” in the reference line. This will be the best summer VBS ever – and very likely the wettest one as well.
In CHRIST’s Unfailing Love
Pastor J. Paul <><

May, 2020 – Let us go to the House of the Lord!

I was glad when they said to me, “Let us go to the house of the Lord!””  (Psalm 122:1, ESV)

 I was probably not the only one feeling that way, when I learned that some of the restrictions concerning the fight against Covid-19 were eased. Many of us have developed “cabin fever” and we do desire to come back together to praise the LORD, worship, study the Bible, and fellowship with each other. On a side note, compared to Germany – no groups of more than two – or New Jersey – churches are non-essential businesses — those of us who are living in Texas are truly blessed.

May 1, we are entering Phase 1 of the restart of Texas, and that includes houses of worship. Let me make one thing clear at the outset, Marion and I are loving each and everyone of you very much. We are blessed and encouraged when we find out that the Facebook minute messages, “Wednesdays with GOD’s Word” and our Sunday worship services are reaching you via the internet or even the radio. Tricia, Jean, Leon, Marion, Ted, Joshua, Johanna, and Mike have proven to be a GOD-sent team.

Please understand that the restart of services does take some preparation since we will follow CDC and state guidelines.

We will reopen for Sunday morning worship service on May 17, IF the overall numbers for Medina County do not indicate that we are having a set back as far as infection numbers are concerned.

“Who may ascend the mountain of the Lord? Who may stand in his holy place? The one who has clean hands and a pure heart, who does not trust in an idol or swear by a false god. They will receive blessing from the Lord and vindication from God their Savior.”  (Psalm 24:3–5, NIV)

Here are the ground rules for the restart of in-person worship experiences at First United Methodist Church.

+ If you belong in the high-risk categories of being over 65 years of age and/or have underlying health conditions, please do not feel forced to attend, act wisely and stay home. Join us over the internet or KCWM 1460AM on Sunday mornings 10:00 am.

+ If you are experiencing any of the warning signs, fever, chills, shortness of breath, etc. stay home!

+ We will only have one entrance open to enter the worship space: north side sanctuary entrance closest to the parking lot.

You must

+ Wear a face covering (mask) to enter the building and during the activities covering nose and mouth.

+ Disinfect your hands as you enter our facility.

+ Sit only in one of the designated pews and keep 6 ft. distance to other individuals. People who live in the same household may sit together.

+ No food or drink are allowed during the meetings.

+ “Sing lustily and with a good courage.” (John Wesley)

+ Clap your hands.

+ Praise the LORD!

+ When the event has ended return to your car immediately.

As we are restarting our in-person worship experiences we are asking for your patience and help. Please understand that at this time we will not offer snacks or fellowship time, neither Sunday School nor Children’s Church, and the nursery will also remain closed.

So, this is the game plan as of today. We all know that these are “fluid times” and changes and adjustments may have to be made on short notice.

The one thing we all can do at this point brings me back to Jeremiah 29. This chapter describes a letter that Jeremiah wrote on behalf of the LORD to the exiles in Babylon who longed to return to their home in Jerusalem, making clear that there would be no short-cuts, and by the same token there was no reason for despair. Instead,

““Build houses and settle down; plant gardens and eat what they produce. Marry and have sons and daughters; find wives for your sons and give your daughters in marriage, so that they too may have sons and daughters. Increase in number there; do not decrease. Also, seek the peace and prosperity of the city to which I have carried you into exile. Pray to the Lord for it, because if it prospers, you too will prosper.”” (Jeremiah 29:5–7, NIV)

Keep the prayers coming for your church, your town, your county, your state, as well as for your nation. We will not have to wait for next year in Jerusalem, but we will meet this month at Hondo First – by the grace of GOD.

Keep the faith and stay safe!

Pastor J. Paul <><

Pastor’s Ponderings
      Pastor J. Paul Bruhn is a native of Germany. “He was not born in Texas, but he came here as fast as he could.” He and his wife Marion moved to Dallas in 1993, where he graduated from Southern Methodist University in 1997. He is an ordained elder and member of the Rio Texas Conference of the United Methodist Church. J. Paul, Marion and their two children Joshua and Johanna moved to Hondo from La Grange, Texas, where he served as pastor of First United Methodist Church.
     Pastor Bruhn began his ministry as a volunteer in children and youth ministry in Berlin, Germany. He met his wife Marion at the training for United Methodist Lay Servants back in Frankfurt am Main, Germany over thirty years ago.
     In addition, J. Paul has been involved with United Methodist Women’s School of Mission since 2002 serving as youth instructor and workshop leader. He is an instructor at the Local Pastor School of the Rio Texas Conference of the United Methodist Church and has helped lead “Autumn in the Hills” retreats at Mt. Wesley Retreat Center, Kerrville. He is also involved with the Walk to Emmaus movement and has helped with Chrysalis and Kairos in the past.
     Over the last twenty years, he has volunteered as an Emergency Care Attendant and later as a volunteer firefighter and chaplain. Being a member of the Texas Corps of Fire Chaplains has allowed him to go alongside first responders and their departments in the area of Critical Incident Stress Management (CISM).
     J. Paul and his wife Marion have visited the Holy Land several times and love Israel. In his spare time he enjoys playing guitar and cooking.

P. U. S. H.

“Preacher, you better pray harder, there is just no rain comin’ to Hondo.” There is more than one person in our community that greeted me with these or very similar words over the last number of weeks, more likely months. We are in the middle of a drought, and we do need rain. Some people might even wonder, why the rain is still not here, since we have more than one pastor, preacher, priest, who all call on the Name of the LORD.

James writes in the fifth chapter of his epistle, “… The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective. Elijah was a man just like us. He prayed earnestly that it would not rain, and it did not rain on the land for three and a half years. Again he prayed, and the heavens gave rain, and the earth produced its crops (verses 16-18, NIV.)”

So does this mean that our pastor is not a righteous person, after all his prayers do not seem to be answered? Thank you for putting on the pressure.

Yes, Elijah was definitely a man of prayer, but we need to take the whole council of Scripture into account when we evaluate the situation. The story, James is referring to, is found in 1 Kings 18. You should read this chapter in your favorite translation.

There are two important observations. First, Elijah only prayed for rain after he had received the Word from GOD (verse 1.) Second, he prayed for rain after a major power encounter in which GOD showed His superiority. Interesting is the way in which Elijah prays, when the time comes.

Elijah bent down to the ground and put his face between his knees. This is the ancient posture of labor and child birth. He then prays very focused for an extended time while his servant looks for any clouds. Only after the seventh attempt does the servant return with the report that a cloud is forming. It is fair to presume that he went through labor-like prayer pains trying to pray through GOD’s promise.

The same intensity of travail is found in Paul’s letter to the Galatians in chapter four, verse 19 and the term of wrestling is used to describe the intensity of prayer done by Epaphras in chapter 4 verse 12 in Colossians.

When was the last time any of us prayed with that intensity for any extended period of time?

The Methodist movement was bathed in the prayers of many faithful men and women who devoted their lives to make Christ known under all circumstances. John Wesley, the “Father of Methodism,” spent countless hours on his knees as well as on horseback pressing in, in the spiritual realm. He learned a lot about prayer from the Moravians who had a one hundred year long prayer session – talk about travailing for the LORD.

Martin Luther is quoted as having said, “Pray like all work is useless and then work like all prayer is useless. The old monks had it right. “Ora et labora,” is Latin for “pray and work” and the order is important.

You are invited to pray for our church family and our community. Ask GOD now who to invite for our Lenten Beans and Cornbread luncheons, as well as Holy Week and Easter Sunday events. Then storm the heavenlies until the unsaved are brought into the House of the LORD to hear the Good News and to be set free from sin, strengthened to live their lives to the glory of GOD.

Let us believe GOD that GOD’s will is for all to come to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ (emphasis mine.) You can read that in 1 Timothy 2:4 and you can be part of the mission to make Christ known right here and now in GOD’s Country.
P. U. S. H. *
Pastor J. Paul <><


(*Pray Until Something Happens)

February is Here!
It seems the seasons follow each other faster and faster. Christmas decorations were still on the shelves when Valentine candy, plush animals, and coffee cups took over the local Wal-Mart. Seven weeks of chocolate and artificial roses. And all this in preparation for February 14.

Valentine’s Day – what comes to mind are chocolates, roses and pink stationary and other frilly stuff. This does not seem to be very attractive to guys. Is there a redeeming purpose in celebrating this day?

So I decided to do some research and learn more about the “Hallmark-holiday” Valentine’s Day. The following quote is taken from “On This Day,” a Devotional by Morgan, R. J. (2000), 365 amazing and inspiring stories about saints, martyrs & heroes (electronic ed.). Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers.

“Legends have occasionally crept into Christian history. Stories of some of the early martyrs, for example, handed down orally, have sometimes become embellished and romanticized. Such is the story of St. Valentine.

Two Valentines are actually described in the early church, but they likely refer to the same man — a priest in Rome during the reign of Emperor Claudius II. According to tradition, Valentine, having been imprisoned and beaten, was beheaded on February 14, about 270, along the Flaminian Way.

Sounds romantic to you? How then did his martyrdom become a day for lovers and flowers, candy and little poems reading Roses are red … ? According to legends handed down, Valentine undercut an edict of Emperor Claudius. Wanting to more easily recruit soldiers for his army, Claudius had tried to weaken family ties by forbidding marriage. Valentine, ignoring the order, secretly married young couples in the underground church. These activities, when uncovered, led to his arrest.

Furthermore, Valentine had a romantic interest of his own. While in prison he became friends with the jailer’s daughter, and being deprived of books he amused himself by cutting shapes in paper and writing notes to her. His last note arrived on the morning of his death and ended with the words “Your Valentine.”

In 496 February 14 was named in his honor. By this time Christianity had long been legalized in the empire, and many pagan celebrations were being “christianized.” One of them, a Roman festival named Lupercalia, was a celebration of love and fertility in which young men put names of girls in a box, drew them out, and celebrated lovemaking. This holiday was replaced by St. Valentine’s Day with its more innocent customs of sending notes and sharing expressions of affection.

Does any real truth lie behind the stories of St. Valentine? Probably. He likely conducted underground weddings and sent notes to the jailer’s daughter. He might have even signed them “Your Valentine.”  And he probably died for his faith in Christ….”

 Morgan has done the research for us and it is now up to us to follow through with the application of truth in our lives.

Application number 1: Valentine did what was right in the eyes of the LORD, even when society frowned upon him. He got in trouble for upholding the moral principle of marriage, a covenant between one man and one woman in devotion to and to the glory of GOD Almighty. Emperor Claudius purposefully weakened the concept of family and out of his faithfulness to the King of kings Valentine opposed the emperor’s decree.

We can take it for granted that we will be at odds with our society whenever we uphold the standards of Christ and the truly Methodist concept of holiness. Set yourself apart for GOD and see how others will set their sights on you trying to stop you from following Christ whole-heartedly.

Application number 2: roughly two hundred years later the early church claimed a heathen holiday and reworked it unashamedly to the glory of GOD. Since Psalm 19 and other passages teach us that all creation is meant to point towards the Creator and to lead us into worship we need to learn from the early church and claim our surroundings for Christ. JESUS is the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end and there is no one like Him.

Knowing the history behind Valentine’s Day is giving us the opportunity to share with co-workers and friends about the love of Christ that caused a humble priest to put his life on the line for the Kingdom of our Savior. We can share that love by sharing the truth about CHRIST’s agape love. Agape love is the power that moves us to respond to someone else’s needs with no expectation of reward.

A proper way to celebrate Valentine’s Day is to show unconditional and undeserved love to someone in need. May GOD bless you as you ponder who to bless and how to bless. What a great way to make Christ known.

 In Christ’s Unfailing Love

 Pastor J. Paul <><

January already?
Time flies, when you’re having fun! The gift-wrap is at the recycling center, the toys needed the first replacement set of batteries and the ornaments and chains of lights are safely stored away.

Did you ever wonder how long it takes for those chains of light to become entangled inside their boxes? It seems to make no difference how carefully you role them up, they come out in a knot. American researchers have tested this particular problem – no I do not remember the University, but it was a showcase on National Public Radio. It is in the first five seconds, when the boxes are moved, that the chaos overtakes the wires and light bulbs.

There are several solutions to this problem. First, leave the lights up all year, just don’t plug them in. Who cares if the neighbors snicker? Second, throw the old lights away immediately and buy new chains next year. This solution is not really advisable if you want to be frugal and quite often we have memories attached to the different parts of our Christmas decorations.Third, use some cardboard pieces and duct tape to give the chains a backbone, something they can lean against while you wrap them tightly. It takes a little more effort, but it will control the chaos you will encounter next November.

Somehow the chains of light remind me of our own lives. We are called to shine bright for our LORD and Savior Jesus Christ. We know that we need to be plugged into GOD’s power to do that job, but somehow over the course of a year our chains become all tangled up.

It is time for a fresh start. And Jesus wants to go with us all the way. We can use the beginning of the new year to dedicate all of our lives anew to the service of our Savior and LORD. He knows what caused all the kinks, turns and knots. If we hold still and give permission, Jesus is happy to restore us carefully and gently. He is the master electrician that can make sure that the wires are not crossed, the “juice” is flowing and that we shine at the right time in the right spot. He even can give us the rest so many of us desperately need.

One way of celebrating GOD’s goodness at the beginning of the new year and remembering His goodness is to re-dedicate our lives to serve Jesus Christ. You are invited to join us for our covenant renewal service on Sunday, January 12, 2020.

On August 11, 1755, John Wesley celebrated, for the first time, a covenant renewal service with a group of Methodists. In London, these services were held on New Year’s Day. Around the country, the Covenant Service was conducted whenever John Wesley visited the Methodist Societies.

Today this service helps people in Methodist congregations all over the world to refocus their life on Christ their Savior and LORD. God is faithful and God’s covenant is trustworthy. We are the ones with short memory, forgetting and breaking the covenant. This service offers an opportunity to enter or re-enter into the covenant relationship with God. 

Since it is a covenant between God and an individual, membership in the United Methodist Church is not required to take part in this service. The core element of the service is the believer’s dedication to God. This is expressed in a covenant prayer, which is reprinted in the textbox.

Join us Sunday, January 12, 2019 at 10:00 a.m. for this exciting service with Holy Communion.

In Christ’s Unchanging Love

Pastor J. Paul <><

Ponderings 2019
December 2019

Thank you, dear church family, for the wonderful response to our Thanksgiving luncheon. We had a great turn out. For all those who faithfully prepared turkeys, side dishes and a wide array of desserts, you made sure that I will have to put in some extra work out between now and Christmas 😉

It is such a blessing to hear the hum on Sunday morning in our sanctuary. “What hum?” You might ask. It is the sound of people kindly conversing with each other as we prepare to start our worship service. Just yesterday (Nov. 24) we had our first Baptism and more than a dozen children witnessed and helped with the initiation of Rilee Dae Shumate into the family of GOD.

I am excited to report that children’s church is alive and well. Please pray for our volunteers who work diligently to introduce the young ones to the eternal truth of the Word of GOD. Beginning in January we will be using a new Sunday School curriculum.

Seedbed Kids will provide a “map” leading our children through the marvelous stories of the Old Testament and New Testament. This program also will provide 
internet based material for parents and guardians, so they can interact with their children and have conversations about the Christian faith.

Come January we will use the same stories of the Bible in our Sunday morning service for the adults. Many of us could use a little refresher when it comes to the heroes of the Bible. It is said that “the family that prays together, stays together.” I believe that this is true. The family that reads the Bible together will find a treasure that might be even greater. The year 2020 will be our year of the Bible.

Reading might not be your favorite past time. That’s quite alright. You can listen to the Word of GOD. The “YouVersion Bible App” provides a wide variety of translations free of charge, and several can be read to you via smart phone or tablet device. Hearing GOD’s Word in the car can be much more encouraging than listening to talk radio.

Some of us might still be looking for Christmas gifts for a loved one. How about a new Bible? Beside the question what translation to choose, font size might be crucial — I am now at an age, where bigger is better as far as print size is concerned. Over the years I have used a variety of translations, and you might have observed that we are using different translations on different Sundays. So there is not just one “perfect translation” of GOD’s Holy Word.

Some prefer a more literal translation like the New American Standard Bible (NASB). This translation tries to be as faithful as possible to the original Greek and Hebrew texts. This can lead to long sentences, occasionally with some awkward sentence structure. Then there is the New King James Version (NKJV), traditional yet without the “Thee-s, Thou-s, and Thy-s” that prove quite difficult for a German tongue. The New International Version (NIV) has undergone several updates since it first was released in the early 1980’s. This is one of the translations used in the New Interpreter’s Bible Commentary by Abingdon Press, a United Methodist publishing house. It strikes a great balance between accuracy and readability.

The New International READERS Version (NirV) was created for a third to fourth grade reading level. Shorter sentences and a simplified vocabulary help to bring GOD’s message of grace and hope across. This version is not only used for children and youth, but also for adults. The New Living Translation (NLT) is the follow up to the New Living Bible. The Living Bible was for the longest time a Sunday School alternative to the beloved King James Version (KJV). The KJV many found difficult to understand — it is basically 400 years old and a contemporary to Shakespeare’s works. A pastor who wanted his grandchildren to have a better grasp of GOD’s Word, reworked the KJV and thus created The Living Bible. While his work was well received it lacked some scholarly foundation, since he was not fluent in Hebrew or Greek. The New Living Translation was developed by a group of scholars that were asked to keep the readability of the Living Bible but assure that the translation correctly presented the original intent. On occasion more a thought for thought translation.

Finally two translations that I have very much enjoyed over the last couple of years are the English Standard Version (ESV) and the Modern English Version (MEV). The ESV is an essentially literal translation that was first released in 2001. I find the ESV Study Bible an excellent tool to dig deeper into GOD’s Word.

The MEV appeared first in 2014 and was developed by the Military Bible Association. British and American Scholars came together and provided a translation dedicated to the beauty of the King James and the accuracy modern day biblical scholarship requires.

You might feel slightly overwhelmed by all these different translations, and there are many more. For example the New English Translation (NET) has a most impressive number of footnotes, carefully explaining different options of approaching the text and why the translators may have opted for one word instead of another. Definitely meant for serious study.

Not to worry, I am not a Bible salesman. I just want you to know that there is a Bible translation “out there” that will meet your needs and nurture your walk with GOD. Christmas is a great time to ask for a new Bible, and January will be a great starting point when we explore the stories of the Bible together as a family of GOD. The best Bible translation will always be the one that you actually read.

I will leave you with a famous quote from Psalm 119:105, “Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.”


For now, keep the faith and stay safe!

Pastor J. Paul <><

Worship & Thanksgiving
    Yup, tis the season to be thankful. Considering market share it is amazing how Halloween and Christmas have aggressively taken over this time of the year only leaving a sliver for THANKSGIVING. Even that four day weekend is assaulted at Friday midnight with black Friday specials beyond belief.
     Consumption is almost more a habit than thanksgiving.  We tend to do better with the former than the latter. About 40 years ago our English teacher in 7th grade made us memorize a proverb. We learned, “the American people eat what they can, and they can what they cannot eat.” Granted, his intent was to raise our awareness of the different meanings of the word “can”, however it seems more true today than forty years ago; we tend to have a lot of stuff.
     On occasion I encourage people to live life with an attitude of gratitude – in other words, be thankful and let GOD know that you are. Gratitude is the breeding ground for worship and adoration in every believer’s life. And GOD appreciates and is honored by our response to HIS support of our existence.
     When one studies Firstfruits from a biblical perspective, it is surprising that there is not a set amount or percentage one has to give for Firstfruits – thanking GOD with the first produce of our labor – the first check written every pay period, acknowledging GOD from the top and not from the leftovers of our existence. I learned that the Old Testament scholars believed the reason for the lack of amount or percentage is that GOD did not want to stifle the believer’s response of gratitude. “Wanna give it all? Go for it!”
     It is this voluntary aspect that reveals the giver’s heart. Let me share with you two biblical examples:
     When the Israelites prepared to build the Tabernacle in the wilderness GOD could have prepared for them a gold mine in the middle of nowhere or drop jewels like rain – after all HE is GOD — instead GOD advised Moses to receive a free-will offering to pay for and bring together the building materials for the Tabernacle. The plans for the Tabernacle were divinely inspired and demanded excellent products and craftsmanship. The heart of the people was so tuned into GOD and wanting to honor and please HIM that Moses had to put a stop to the collection. You can read the details in Exodus 35 and 36.
     Years later King Hezekiah led the people in restoring the Temple worship. They sacrificed and worshipped extensively. Why do I say that? 2 Chronicles 29 outlines how they worshipped all through the time it took for a great whole burnt offering. Imagine joining the choir for the whole time it takes to offer up the sacrifice, anywhere between eight and twelve hours non-stop – what an extra-ordinary act of worship!
     We worship a generous GOD, the author, giver, redeemer, and sustainer of life. Let us show others our relationship to the Creator of the universe by making GOD and GOD’s Kingdom #1 on our agenda. Worship, thanks-giving, Firstfruits, monthly donations by cash, check, or electronic means, all generous and all to the glory of GOD – making THANKSGIVING the true reason for this season.
In CHRIST’s Unfailing Love
Pastor J. Paul <><

October 2019


Rev.  J. Paul Bruhn


Just a few days ago I picked up a sign that read, “Happy Fall Y’all!” Not only was it cute in the proper autumn color scheme, but I needed a reminder that the seasons are about to change. 99 degrees just doesn’t announce fall very effectively.

Coming from the old country,  I still remember a celebration that is much less observed on this side of the big pond, ERNTEDANK. Yes, it is true, the Germans tend to combine nouns and make new ones, and this is no different. Erntedank is a combination of Ernte = harvest, and Dank = thank or thanksgiving.

For centuries people came together to give thanks to GOD for the harvest. We would decorate the sanctuary with some of the finest fruits, grains, and vegetables that the local community had raised. Not just the professional farmers, but everyday people would bring some fruit of their labor out of their own backyards and “Schrebergarten”: tomatoes, potatoes, beans, onions, cherries, apples, in short, whatever their garden produced. They brought their best into the house of the LORD. In some communities, a special crown was fashioned from hand-harvested sheaves. Grain and bread took a central place. If you take a careful look at the first picture, you will see a loaf of bread with the words “Our Daily Bread” baked onto the top of the loaf.

It is GOD’s promise to all humankind extended to Noah that there will always be springtime and harvest. We confess with the Prophet Isaiah that it is GOD who provides us ultimately with seed, soil, water, sun, and air, so that we can plant, tend, and harvest what we need for life. GOD gives “seed to the sower and bread to the eater” (Isaiah 55:10).

Fall is the season of thanksgiving, acknowledging that all we have ultimately comes from GOD, our Savior and LORD. Moses describes in the fifth Book of Moses how the Israelites shall celebrate GOD’s goodness during harvest time. “And it shall be, when you come into the land which the LORD your GOD is giving you as an inheritance, and you possess it and dwell in it, that you shall take some of the first of all your produce of the ground which you shall bring from your land that the LORD your GOD is giving you, and put it in a basket and go to the place where the LORD your GOD chooses to make His name abide” (Deuteronomy 26:1-2).

Moses describes the first fruits of gratitude. He explains what it is and where to bring it, but there is no amount mentioned, no percentage. That always puzzled me. As I did some research, I came across some rabbinic teaching that ex plained why any amount was missing. GOD does not want to stifle the gratitude of the giver by putting a ceiling on it. Go ahead, be as generous as you want to be, GOD will receive and multiply your gift for the Kingdom of GOD.

Yes, we are entering harvest season as well as stewardship season.

Soon pledge cards will be sent out and we will look at the different areas of our stewardship; prayer, presence, gifts, service, and witness. Let us rejoice in GOD’s continuing goodness, sustaining us in our efforts, acknowledging that JESUS is the Bread of Life that nourishes us every moment of our earthly existence and beyond.


In CHRIST’s Unfailing Love
Pastor J. Paul <><

September 2019

Rev.  J. Paul Bruhn
I heard it on TV. The weatherman said we are on the downhill slope of this year’s heat — tidal — wave. It’s official, fall is drawing closer. Sounds wonderful, but I am still wiping the sweat of my brow just after getting the mail from the mailbox. Lower temperatures also mean that restful weekend mornings will soon be traded for the daily barrage by dove hunters — so we’ve been told. No worries, I got some ear muffs.
In other words, Marion and I are enjoying exploring and making Hondo our home. Again, we thank you for all your kindness and ask that you continue your name tags just a little bit longer. As fall draws closer and Labor Day is soon a thing of the past it will be time to trade the straw for a felt hat and look for the long sleeve shirts.Maundy Thursday
It is also time to consider how we can strengthen the Christian walk for the members of our church family. You will find in this newsletter a little questionnaire with several different options to make your wishes known. While I can promise you that we will carefully read through the feedback we will receive, we cannot promise that all ideas will become a reality.
Another sign that fall is upon us is the fact that our Hill Country District is preparing for the annual round of cluster church conferences. We have been asked to host such a cluster conference here in Hondo on Sunday, September 29, 2019 at 2:30 pm. We will be serving some light refreshments and are hoping that we will hear many encouraging stories of how the Kingdom of GOD is advancing in our region.
In preparation for this gathering our Administrative Council will have a called meeting on Monday, September 9, 2019 at 6:00 pm in our fellowship hall. We will adopt the 2020 budget, elect officers for the next three years, and receive a collection of annual reports. All members are invited to join us for that particular event as well.
One great opportunity to familiarize ourselves with the Word of GOD is the plan to read through the entire Bible in one year. We would start in January of 2020, and by Christmas of the same year we would have accomplished that task. Many years ago I thought this was an intimidating endeavor until I finally became part of such a program. While we will all be on the same reading plan I would choose the Scripture readings for our Sunday services from the readings of the prior week. If you participate you will always find something new and spiritually refreshing when you attend Sunday services — and it might even help to “connect the dots” of some of the biblical stories that are lesser known.
You will be able to pick up a bookmark at the beginning of every quarter that will provide you with the reading plan. Should you have to miss some daily readings remember that there is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus (Romans 8:1). Simply skip to the current date and “keep on trucking”. Children and youth will be able to participate in a more concise reading plan, that will still “hit the highlights”.
Why do I tell you about this plan so early? It is important that you can participate with a Bible that you enjoy reading. Should you have questions concerning different translations and which one might fit you best, feel free to talk to me, and we will figure something out for you. This might actually mean that you will receive a new edition of the Word of GOD when we celebrate the birthday of the Son of GOD. Definitely something to be excited about. Paul reminded Timothy, ”You have been taught the Holy Scriptures from childhood, and they have given you the wisdom to receive the salvation that comes by trusting in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is inspired by GOD and is useful to teach us what is true and to make us realize what is wrong in our lives. It corrects us when we are wrong and teaches us to do what is right. GOD uses it to prepare and equip His people to do every good work.” (2 Timothy 3:15-17, New Living Translation)   In Christ’s Unfailing Love
Pastor J. Paul <><