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.
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.
 
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 <><