Financial Peace University

At the beginning of 2018, we offered the Financial Peace University (FPU) Class here at Virginia Beach United Methodist.  Our class just ended in March with 16 participants and 4 facilitators. 

Dave Ramsey’s nine-week course, Financial Peace, highlights budget challenges early in the class when he encourages participants to “live like no one else, so you can later live like no one else.” Classmate Lee defined the challenge as “making sacrifices that few in our society are willing to make over an extended period of time” and concluded that “if you stay the course, you come out way ahead.”

Rachel, another classmate, is grateful for the “useful cash flow plan” which “has given me a boost in my confidence and enhanced my feeling of being in control of my finances. I have begun to teach my daughter what I am learning in an effort to assist her in creating her future financial wealth.”

Seldom do we have an opportunity to sit in a classroom with folks ranging in age from 20-something to 70-plus- something to discuss a common problem: our financial futures. How encouraging to be able to do so knowing we are not alone in our journey. All of us acknowledged, rather embarrassingly at times, the poor choices we had made in the past. Rather than be discouraged, though, we found good-humored Dave Ramsey to be a champion of specific steps to get our family finances on the road to a more peaceful conclusion. Anyone, whether 20 or 70, who is looking for a great structure for family finances will benefit from this important course. To quote the famous chess master Charles A. Jaffe, “It’s not your salary that makes you rich; it’s your spending habits.” This class will not teach you how to become rich, but it will teach you how to save and spend wisely.

Rachel’s sentiment is one shared by all the participants: “Thank you to VBUMC and our talented instructors for providing this class and giving us tools to grow and become better stewards of the resources that God has given us.”

– Dee Swanson, VBUMC Member

Below are some insights from the participants, in case you are thinking about taking an FPU class in the future:

Did you experience any God-moments or have insights about how your beliefs can/do influence your financial life?

handle money save money

  • Always – without God, I cannot imagine
  • I gave direct to the church for the first time
  • The ability to give more by managing and getting rid of debt; I have more to give by paying off mortgage
  • Stewarding my finances in a way that is pleasing to God and allows me to leave an inheritance to my children
  • Underscored the necessity of always tithing

 What one concept or insight from this class was most helpful to you?

  • Insurance (cancer)
  • Monthly budgeting
  • Benefits of working and saving for college
  • Getting out of debt and evaluate insurance coverage
  • Live life now in a mindful way so I can enjoy life later on
  • Dave says, “Children should not start their lives at their parents’ level. (Social/Economic)

“Every person’s financial situation is unique depending on their choices in life.  We all relate!  I learn something new every time we offer the course.”  – Joanne Griggs



Faith-Based Women’s Retreat 2018

101 women attended the annual Women’s Retreat this year on March 9-11 at the Ramada Plaza at Nags Head, NC. Many women said they liked making new friends, bonding with wonderful Christian women, sharing thoughts and fears, and just having time away to focus on being a child of God. One of the main take-a ways was that everyone is dealing with some type of journey, everyone has troubles, and we are all the walking wounded. One attendee said, “The important thing to remember is that each person is placed in my life for me to connect with God. God works through community, and that can be anywhere and anytime.”

Other women commented:

Women's Retreat 2018 group

  • “The women’s retreat was a wonderful time to check out of my agenda and check (totally) in with God. It was such a special weekend with an unforgettable message from Rhonda Vandyke. Buen Camino!” – Jenny Davis, 1st Time Attendee
  • “I had never attended a women’s retreat, and I admit that I felt slightly nervous.  Once I arrived, listened, learned, and prayed, I no longer felt nervous.  Our speaker was dynamic and offered many spiritual insights.  I left the retreat with a certain peace and feeling even closer in my faith.”  – Carol Buckler

We offer this Women’s Retreat every spring, so check back here this fall for Spring 2019 dates and information!

Women Preaching in the Bible

One thing that we often pray for as we begin to read Scripture is that the Word of God will challenge us and change us. These are easy words to say, but it’s difficult to be truly vulnerable to scripture, which “is living, active and sharper than any two-edged sword” (Hebrews 4:12). So as I read again the familiar story of the women discovering the empty tomb on that very first Easter Sunday, I found myself challenged, though not surprised. Listen to the April 8 sermon, “Believe Her.”

Upon reading, “Their words struck the apostles as nonsense, and they didn’t believe the women” (Luke 24:11), I couldn’t help but wonder:

How could such a hopeful moment give way to such brokenness?

At the crossroads of Jesus’ death and resurrection, we find Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary the mother of James and a group of other, anonymous women. They share with the rest of the disciples the good news, “He is risen!” And rather than trusting these fellow disciples who have accompanied Jesus, who have even helped finance the apostles’ ministry, their story is met with disbelief.

As I have so often asked of other challenging texts present in Scripture, why include this verse in the text? The answer comes in the form of another question: “What can we learn today from the apostles’ folly?” We have learned a great deal, but we still have a great deal more to learn. If we examine the words and deeds of Jesus Christ, the church has had no greater model for female empowerment, and yet the long tradition of the church is full of privileged male voices and marginalized female voices.

In effect, the female disciples were the first to preach the resurrection, and yet, women have had to struggle to live into their call to the ministry of preaching. I am grateful that, for the most part, the question of female ordination has been settled, but it’s important to recognize two difficult truths:

  1. It’s been long and difficult road. Throughout the history of the church, women have struggled with the tension between a very real call to preach the Word of God and a few scriptural passages that were used as prooftexts to prohibit their ministry. Whether by saturating their sermons with Scripture, “preaching” without preaching, taking leadership roles in mission work or preaching by leading private Bible studies, women have overcome obstacles their male counterparts did not face with creativity and grace. Many women and men have worked tirelessly to fulfill the words of the prophet Joel: “I will pour out my spirit upon everyone; your sons and your daughters will prophesy.” The Methodist Church first granted full clergy rights to women in 1956, but I must wonder, what took the church so long to recognize where the Holy Spirit was already at work?
  2. We still have a long ways to go. The most challenging aspect of addressing these words from Scripture has been the acknowledgment that there is still work to be done. In August 2017, The United Methodist General Commission on the Status and Role of Women identified two major problems that undercut the notion that we have somehow arrived at equality. First, women are greatly underrepresented in church leadership. While they represent 58% of UMC membership, women make up only 28.4% of clergy roles. Second, and more worrying, female clergy are paid significantly less than their male counterparts. These two realities stand in stark contrast to the life and ministry of Jesus, who demonstrated the importance of female empowerment.

The good news is that God is still calling and equipping all kinds of people to serve as the hands and feet of Christ. The Holy Spirit is still moving in and through the church as we sing out, “He is Risen!” The resurrection of Jesus Christ announced the arrival of the new humanity, that “if anyone is in Christ, that person is part of the new creation” (2 Corinthians 15:17). This new humanity is already revealed in Christ, but it’s not yet fully present. So the church is called to work together to empower all people—that’s right, all—to share the good news of Jesus Christ and practice resurrection until every knee will bow and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord!

Pastor Matt Potter


But Wait, There’s More

Ron Popeil is the inventor and marketer who created a company called “Ronco.”   Known for his advertising on television, Ron Popeil has brought us such great products as the Vego-Matic, the Pocket Fisherman, Mr. Microphone, and the Showtime Rotisserie Oven.   Mr. Popeil is also known for a famous catch-phrase that he would often use in his advertising and marketing: “But wait, there’s more.” Listen to the April 1 sermon.

While this phrase might be a clever way to encourage someone to buy a product, it’s also a great phrase for summarizing the message of Easter and the resurrection of Jesus.  By rising from the dead, Jesus is telling us that there is more to life than just this life.  He is confirming his identity as our Savior and Lord, and also affirming his promise, “I died, and behold I am alive forevermore. And because I live, you will live also” (Rev. 1:18, John 14:19).

Because of Easter, we can see physical death as it really is, not simply an ending, but a transition to a new beginning.  Because of Easter, we discover that we are not in the land of the living moving towards death, we are actually in the land of the dying moving towards life.  Because of Easter we can look at the graves of our loved ones, consider our own mortality, and confidently say, “but wait, there’s more.”

Pastor Mark Miller

Potter’s House Report March 2018

Potter’s House at Virginia Beach United Methodist provides services to the homeless, the working poor, and those in crisis situations, who are residents of Virginia Beach. Assistance is available for Rent, Utilities, Birth Certificates – Domestic and Foreign, State of Virginia ID Card, Personal Hygiene Items, and Bicycles and Bicycle Repair (proof of minimum of 2 weeks employment required to obtain a bicycle). Clients are eligible for financial assistance once a year.

In March, a total of $3212.90 was spent which translated into $25,547.99 worth of support to our working poor and homeless population:

Potter's house sign at Virginia Beach United Methodist

  • 564 lunches were served
  • 356 households were given food feeding 856
  • 277 volunteers participated
  • 340 interviews were conducted

Various reasons for needing assistance were:

  • Laid off due to a sick child and not receiving child support
  • Unemployed for a few months and husband is disabled
  • Ex-husband stopped paying child support
  • Disabled veteran
  • Had stroke in Jan

Please keep these people and others in your prayers.


Palm Sunday

Palm Sunday

Palm Sunday was an inaugural parade.  Jesus was making the bold statement that he was the promised King, bringing a new kind of kingdom.  Some believed, some did not.  For those who believed, the resurrection of Jesus confirmed his identity and authenticated his kingdom.  The King who declared that his kingdom was not of this world, demonstrated a power that is not of this world, and established the Church to be a visible representation of his eternal kingdom in this temporal world.  Listen to the March 25 Sermon, “Join the Parade.”

But the King is not finished.  His first inaugural parade will someday be followed by a second inaugural parade.  The King is coming back!  The second-coming of Jesus Christ is a promise that has given hope and strength to Christians down through the ages.  The second coming is referenced at least 318 times in the New Testament and was a dominant part of the teaching of the early Church.  We do not know the day or the hour, but we know that our King will return.

For now, we live in between the two inaugural parades.  One has already happened on Palm Sunday, the other will happen someday.  Until that day, we live out our lives with hope, and we engage in two consistent behaviors that demonstrate the Kingdom of God in our midst:

  1. First, we work.  Work is how we demonstrate the power of the kingdom. We do the work that Christ began, caring for those who are struggling, and inviting people to be reconciled to God through the love and forgiveness that is available to us. 
  2. Second, we worship.  Through worship we celebrate the beauty of the kingdom.  We don’t worship God because He needs it, we worship God because He deserves it.  Authentic love and devotion must be expressed in order to be fulfilled.  Through worship we express our love, loyalty and devotion to our King.  

Someday, there will be a new heaven and a new earth, and there will be no more suffering, death, injustice or sorrow.  Until that day, we wait.  But while we wait, we work and we worship, knowing that the Kingdom of God has already begun, and we get to be part of the action!

Pastor Mark Miller

2 Ways to Find Joy at Work 

how to find joy in your work, ways to be happy at work

Many people think of work as a burden, a curse, or a necessary obligation that allows us to earn money so we can then do what we really want to do.  We often think of work as the opposite of play.  Work is not fun, play is fun.  But it doesn’t have to be that way, and it shouldn’t be that way.

Work is not meant to be a curse, but an opportunity to serve others and express God’s love to the world as we engage our talents, skills and abilities in tasks that help solve problems and meet needs.  Listen to the March 18 sermon, “Working with Joy.”

If you want to experience more joy in your work, here are two suggestions:

  1. Look up. Find meaning and purpose in your work.  See work as God’s invitation to you to make a positive difference in the world.  Doing good work and being excellent at what you do is a way of expressing love for God and love for others.
  2. Look around. Look for the opportunities and possibilities all around you to bless other people. Sometimes we fail to notice how a problem or challenge at work is really an opportunity to glorify God.  Sometimes the issue at work that we curse is the very instrument that God is trying to use to deepen our faith and develop our ability to serve others.

When we look up and look around, we find joy in our work.  We solve problems and meet needs in a way that honors God, blesses others, and deepens our faith.

Pastor Mark Miller

The Power of Words

The Power of Words Scrabble letters, words are powerful

Words are powerful.  Words can build up or tear down.  There is an expression that goes like this: “Sticks and stones can break my bones, but words can never hurt me.”  That isn’t true.  Words can hurt.  But words can also heal.  The Bible declares that “the tongue has the power of life or death” (Proverbs 18:21).  If we want to experience greater joy in our lives and become a source of joy in the lives of others, we should pay close attention to our words.  Listen to the March 11 sermon, “What Do You Say?”

Here are two helpful habits to cultivate:

  1. Replace words of criticism with words of encouragement.  Complaining and criticizing are easy to do, and those kinds of words tend to come naturally to us.  To experience more joy, we need to become encouragers.  Encouraging words are not intended to butter someone up or lie about their deficiencies in order to spare their feelings.  Encouraging words are designed to speak truth in love so that a person can recognize his or her potential and be motivated to work towards that potential.  Encouraging words see the up-side rather than the down-side of situations and circumstances.  Encouragers build up and bless, even when the conversation is difficult.
  2. Replace words of fear with words of faith.  Fear usually manifests itself as worry.  Worry is not the same as having a concern.  Having a concern is normal and useful because a concern is meant to motivate us toward positive action.  If I have a concern about my finances, I am motivated to read a book on money management, create a budget, discipline my spending habits and live within my means.  But worry is different.  Rather than motivating us toward action, worry paralyzes us with fear and dread.  The English word “worry” derives from the Germanic word “Worgen” which literally means “to strangle” or “to choke.”  This is what worry does.  It chokes the joy out of us.  We get so focused on fear that we don’t see God’s possibilities in the midst of difficulties.  Replacing fear with faith allows us to speak God’s truth into our challenges and struggles.  Sometimes we have to say it before we see it, but choosing to speak words of faith rather than fear, can help us discover God’s grace and strength, and we begin to grow in new and important ways.

This is why the Church is so important.  The Church is God’s anointed instrument for helping people speak words of encouragement and faith in the midst of a world that is gripped by criticism and fear.  We serve a loving and powerful Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who conquered sin and death and offers us a new life and a new identity.  With that comes a new vocabulary.  So let’s use words that cultivate greater joy in our lives, and bring joy into the lives of others.

Pastor Mark Miller

Potter’s House Report February 2018

The total value of services provided was $43,199.  We conducted 145 interviews for financial assistance, served 580 lunches, and provided food for 626 households at Fresh Food Wednesday. We also received great news that one of our partners will be increasing their annual gift by 50% this year.  They noted, “…(we) found that your work, your demonstrated needs, and our vision to serve others were deeply compatible…you are able to do what we are not, which is properly address the needs presented… and we believe that what you are doing for people in need is important, and we are pleased to partner with you…”

Some of the reasons for needed financial assistance were:

  • In beauty school, has 3 children and had to take in Sister’s 4 children due to her being incarcerated
  • Out of work and behind on rent.  Doesn’t want to break lease that ends in July.  Will find a cheaper place in July.
  • Single Mom lost job and can’t go back to work until after surgery.

Thank you to all those that make this possible!


2 Easy Ways to Find More Joy

We live busy, noisy lives.  Sometimes our thoughts, attitudes, and habits (joy stealers) can distract us from the joy that our Lord has for us, and we can miss out on the joy that is promised to us through our faith in Jesus Christ.   But there are a couple of strategies that can help us keep our focus and experience greater joy. Listen to the “Joy Stealers” sermon from March 4.

  1. Be discerning about the people we hang around.  It’s not that we need to be a “holy clique” and avoid people who are different from us, but we do need to be thoughtful and intentional about our relationships.  If we hang around negative people who complain, criticize, gossip and pursue selfish desires, we will tend to adopt those attitudes and behaviors for ourselves as well. As the Bible reminds us, “bad company corrupts good character”(1 Cor 15:33).  A good question to ask is this: “who am I hanging around and what are they doing to me?”   Building Christian community requires us to intentionally enter into relationship with our brothers and sisters in Christ, relationships where we focus our attention on encouraging, supporting, and challenging each other to pursue the kind of life that honors the Lord and allows more joy to flow into us and through us.
  2.  Be discerning about the kind of things we allow into our minds.  We not only have a relationship with people, we have a relationship with our television, the movie screen, our smart phones, books, magazines and the internet. These various forms of media are bombarding us every day with messages, philosophies, value statements, and truth claims that can influence us in subtle (and not so subtle ways).  A good question to ask is this:  what am I watching these days, and what is it doing to me?  What books am I reading?  What movies am I watching, what songs am I listening to, what websites am I visiting?  What video games am I playing? How are these and other forms of media impacting my life and my character? 

Ultimately, joy is not primarily an emotional response to pleasant circumstances, joy is a character quality we cultivate.  Few things impact our character as much as the people we hang out with and the media we consume.  Let us be discerning and careful, because we don’t want the joy stealers to distract us from the joy that comes from a good and honorable character!

Pastor Mark Miller