9 Then Jesus told this story to some who had great confidence in their own righteousness and scorned everyone else: 10 “Two men went to the Temple to pray. One was a Pharisee, and the other was a despised tax collector. 11 The Pharisee stood by himself and prayed this prayer: ‘I thank you, God, that I am not like other people—cheaters, sinners, adulterers. I’m certainly not like that tax collector! 12 I fast twice a week, and I give you a tenth of my income.’ 13 “But the tax collector stood at a distance and dared not even lift his eyes to heaven as he prayed. Instead, he beat his chest in sorrow, saying, ‘O God, be merciful to me, for I am a sinner.’ 14 I tell you, this sinner, not the Pharisee, returned home justified before God. For those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.”Luke chapter 18, verses 9 through 14, from the New Living Translation
Mary was standing outside the tomb crying, and as she wept, she stooped and looked in.John chapter 20, verse 11 from the New Living Translation
The Resurrection Story! Tell me, is the only time you think about it at Easter? For many, this falls into the category of You Only Read It At The Appropriate Liturgical Season. You know, like the Incarnation–you’re only supposed to read it around Christmas time, right? But, if any epic story from the Bible is appropriate 24/7/365, it’s The Resurrection. This morning it was Verse 11 from John’s account that hit me. Remember it with me.
Mary Magdalene had gone to the tomb. An appropriate response to grief. But the stone had been rolled away and the body wasn’t there. She ran back to tell the others, and some ran there to see for themselves, including Mary. With me so far? Good! Then they all went back, except Mary. Now she is all alone with her pain. Do you ever feel alone in your pain? A crisis? A fear? A problem? Uncertainty? At home? Even in church?
Perhaps you feel alone with your cancer. Or maybe you feel alone as you read that eviction notice or foreclosure statement. It could be as you are reading your termination letter. The feeling of alone pounces on you as you read your divorce decree. You watch your loved one just lie there in the midst of dementia and you feel alone. You watch your youngest child leave for college. Your child is The Prodigal Son and they just won’t reach out to you. And it could be you’re in your “Mary” moment. You are grieving at the grave. The dirt may be still fresh, or maybe the grass has grown back over it and it’s been years ago. Situations are different–but the loneliness is still the same.
And if John had ended his account of the Resurrection, then we would be justified in our “feeling alone”. But isn’t that just like God, to not let the story end at that point. Jesus is right there! She just doesn’t know it–YET! She stays and stays, then finally decides to leave the grave. Remember! She is still carrying her pain though she is leaving the grave. So, what happens next? Just in case you forgot or didn’t know:
14 She turned to leave and saw someone standing there. It was Jesus, but she didn’t recognize him. 15 “Dear woman, why are you crying?” Jesus asked her. “Who are you looking for?” She thought he was the gardener. “Sir,” she said, “if you have taken him away, tell me where you have put him, and I will go and get him.” 16 “Mary!” Jesus said. She turned to him and cried out, “Rabboni!” (which is Hebrew for “Teacher”).John chapter 20, verses 14 through 16 from the New Living Translation
There were two Resurrections that morning. The first was Jesus and the second was Mary. When YOU feel all alone, you’re not. The Owner And Master of The Resurrection is also present, even if you don’t recognize Him. Resurrection isn’t bound and tied to a liturgical calendar. It happens every day and all the time. And it’s not just in the lonely places where we need a Resurrection. Problems may be mounting and chaos may seem to be the ruler over your life. Even sin may be telling you that you can never be free. But guess what? The CEO of The Resurrection is right there, ready to share with you The Resurrection you need. Oh, and don’t be surprised if He looks like a Groundskeeper!
I press on to reach the end of the race and receive the heavenly prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us.Philippians chapter 3 verse 14 from the New Living Translation
Think about this: Energy produces synergy; and synergy produces energy! Perhaps I should take a step back and share the definition of synergy: the interaction or cooperation of two or more organizations, substances, or other agents to produce a combined effect greater than the sum of their separate effects. Maybe I’m the only one this morning thinking about that word synergy. But YOU, think about it. Synergy is producing the energy that keeps your house with light, a/c, and such going. Think about hydroelectic energy. Water flows throw a turbine, the turbine spins against that thingy, and electricity happens. Or think about your vehicle. The gas (or diesel as the case may be) in the fuel tank is drawn up to the engine–then that computer kicks in pulling all the components together–and off you go to wherever. Remove just one part of these processes and the energy ceases to exist. What does this have to do with The Kingdom Life? Good question! Great question!!!
There is a synergy in every person; it comes from seeking and wanting life as they want it to be. That’s the point: Wanting life as they want it to be. They know they can’t get there by themselves so they seek other sources to cooperate with them to that goal. That energy forms synergy and that synergy forms more energy. When it comes to the human life and human heart, where we seek cooperation or help matters. For that source ultimately determines success or failure.
Some are seeking cooperation with the world’s value system; allowing the world to tell them what they need. It might be money, power, fame, or even sex. We see this synergy happening within my beloved Tribe, the United Methodist Church. Many believe that the Bible needs to be changed–or at least how we see the Bible–so that some might achieve what they believe will give them life. Cooperating with the latest pop psychology, the latest cultural trends is what many in our leadership believes will produce that synergy and energy that will reduce decades of decline.
The synergy that will produce the energy for the life we are created for is as Paul declared in today’s passage: through Christ! The synergy is found as we cooperate with Him through The Bible and with The Holy Spirit. For this synergy to work we must cooperate with God. You see, God doesn’t cooperate with us. He works ON us; IN us; and THROUGH us–never, never does He COOPERATE WITH us. WE cooperate with HIM! HE shows us what we need to achieve real and abundant life. And it’s all found in The Bible. But we also need the Presence and the Power of The Holy Spirit! Without The Spirit we end up with the form, but it’s void of the substance.
So, if you are finding your life missing some things–maybe even void of life–then do what Paul did–develop the synergy by cooperating WITH HIM that creates the energy which in turn produces the life, the ONLY life that fills us with peace, joy, and hope. And so much more. So VERY much more.
1 I am the true grapevine, and my Father is the gardener. 2 He cuts off every branch of mine that doesn’t produce fruit, and he prunes the branches that do bear fruit so they will produce even more.John chapter 15, verses 1 and 2, from the New Living Translation
We live out in the country. Now for you city-folks, it’s a rural area. We could look to the south and there are lots of trees. Look to the east, trees! Look to the west, trees! And up until this week, we could look to the north and see trees. But not now. That property has gone through what is known as “clear cutting.” With the except of a few very small trees, all of the trees are gone. We do have a view now of the next hill over–but because there are no more trees. It’s a beautiful view–but still–we miss those trees. The landscape looks much different now than last week. 17 acres of trees are gone to be repurposed for other things. And it’s our changed view that inspires today’s musings.
You are probably familiar with this morning’s passage about pruning. There’s a high probability that even though you are not a horticulturist (but then again, maybe one of you are a horticulturist), you understand the principle of purning. But like a lot of principles of the Bible that you may understand–they take on new meaning when it’s happening to you. Sure, we all understand what Jesus meant by “pruning”–but when WE are the ones being pruned–well, that’s just different; even though it’s not. Let’s get blunt right here, right now. Pruning is often painful.
We think we’re doing pretty good. We’re starting to see the fruit being produced; maybe even in great quantities. Life is moving along rather smoothly; well, at least as smoothly as it can. Then all of a sudden–BAM!!!!!! God’s pruning shears are turned in our direction. It “feels” different than when we look at it from the outside! And drastic changes happen; changes we never anticipated or saw coming. So, how do we handle the times of God’s pruning? Are YOU going through a time of God’s pruning?
We didn’t see the clear-cutting coming. And the property owner never asked us what we thought about clear-cutting his property. But it happened, baby! Now we have a choice in front of us. We can whine and reminisce about the good old days when all those trees were there. Or, we can take in our new view, a beautiful view that we couldn’t see until all those trees were harvested. We can grumble; or we can anticipate watching the new growth appear in the coming months and hopefully, years. I’m a deer hunter–and this “pruning” has really messed up the area I hunt. I probably won’t see many this upcoming season at this spot. But I understand that in a year or two, it will get much better. So, I’ve just got to be patient–and appreciate what we are now seeing. Besides, I have access to other hunting spots!
Back to pruning! Pruning isn’t about taking away–it’s all about preparing for even more than before! Remember this if and when you enter into the pruning times. And to my United Methodist friends, sisters, and brothers–this is true for us as well. As we discern God’s Future for us, there will be pruning; pruning is necessary for growth! Pruning isn’t a little snip here and a little snip there. We may lose some things we thought–ONLY thought–were important and we just need to hold on to them. But. . .if we see and gladly accept the things we might lose as God’s Pruning, then we are going to see even more and greater fruit.
Twice a year we venture down to see family and friends in central Florida. That journey takes us by orange orchards; both active and abandoned. It’s obvious to notice that some orchards have been abandoned. Their limbs haven’t been pruned. And the quality and the quantity of fruit greatly dimishes. Many of the orange trees are either dying or dead. All because they haven’t been pruned. But the active orchards–the ones being pruned–are green and alive with fruit. And what pruning does for orchards–God’s pruning does the same for us.
Last night while CNN, MSNBC, FOX, and other major networks were chasing down leads, God held a press conference. And while they were not there to capture this most significant moment, yours truly was there. And when the world hears what God had to say it will shock and shake the very foundations of society. Here is what God had to say:
“I want to begin by thanking all of you for being here. I have some very important news to share. I want to open up with an apology to all those who have been offended by the Bible. I am sincerely sorry that I didn’t pay closer attention to those who were writing and deciding which books should have been included. I just didn’t realize how they misunderstood me. And I say, not as an excuse but as a matter of fact, that I don’t know that I could have even controlled what they did. In retrospect when I gave Moses the Law, I should have clarified the difference between moral laws and health laws. That mistake falls on us–It, It, and It. Saying this is my apology to those who are offended by the designation of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. I didn’t have a clue this language could be considered offensive. But I acknowledge it is offensive and harmful, and apologize for allowing such harmful language to be used to describe us.
It troubles me to admit, but we didn’t know how much wiser this creation would be than we who created you. Furthermore, I apologize for not apologizing sooner. We now realize that we should have spoken up sooner. This failure rests on us and us alone. Reparations for this grievous mistake of ours is that all things that We thought were sins but not really sins are no longer sins effective immediately. You are forgiven and released from our incorrect ideas. When we created human beings we had no idea how enlightened and wise you would become. We did not consider the full consequences of making you in OUR image. I also apoligize to Adam and Eve for the way I mistreated them that day. We just didn’t see how any good could come from The Fall. But we were wrong. Please forgive us.
And now, to begin to rectify this great evil we have caused, I am declaring what has been called “The Bible” to be null and void when it comes to this thing called sin. I will be calling upon an elite group of enlightened minds to put together a “new” Bible–one that will be easier to follow and not be so offensive. To this end I am calling upon Bishop Ken Carter, Bishop Karen Oliveto, Adam Hamilton, and Ms. Penny Cost (THE Drag Queen Pastor) to rewrite the entire Bible. They are free to add any additional members to this Committe. We will have no part in the decision making processes. I am relinquishing any influence over them, unless they ask me for assistance. And even then, I will be very cautious to offer them advice, seeing how I messed up the current Bible.
I am so looking forward to their great work, eager to learn from Our mistakes. I want to assure them that when they complete this Great Task, I will breathe on their work and declare it to be The New Bible For Now And All Future Generations! And with their Great Work, I will review all the cases of persons judged to be guilty under the Old Bible. And if they are not guilty under The New Bible, I will restore them to Heaven immediately. I’ve been silent too long. Tonight it stops! And I encourage you to pray for Ken, Karen, Adam, and Ms. Penny as they lead us out of the darkness. Thank you for allowing me to share this with you, and We pray that someday you will forgive us.
Editor’s Note: In case you haven’t figured this out, it called “Satire”!
I’m taking a break from my usual musings. Last week a friend and Brother was seriously injured because someone wasn’t really paying attention. Dustin was riding his bike when this moron decided he wanted to change lanes and quickly moved from the left lane into the right lane, right where Dustin was. He went down, crushing a wrist, broken arm, broken ribs, collapsed lung, and broken pelvis were among his injuries. Thankfully Dustin he making a recovery–albeit a long road–but nonetheless he will recover. And so I want to speak to you who drive 4 wheels securely surrounded by metal and airbags.
You are not the only ones on the road! Teach and train yourself to live into this Truth. I know your excuse is that, “Well, they just aren’t as big as a car. It’s easy to not see them.” What? It’s not easy see our headlights? 99.99999% of us ride with our headlights on to help you see us. And that .00001% (that’s one out of a million for the math impaired), still deserves to be respected on the road! I have some, call them VERY STRONG SUGGESTIONS for you drivers of 4 wheels.
- Take a piece of cardstock and print the word MOTORCYCLE and hang it under your rearview mirror; careful not to make it so big that it obstructs your view.
- Make another sign and tape it to the driver’s side and passenger’s side windows, again, careful not to obstruct your view.
- Use turn signals! Yes, even when changing lanes. It helps the drivers and riders around you know your intentions.
- Before you change lanes, look once, twice, even 3 times before you move that deadly machine from one lane to another.
- Motorcycles have a shorting stopping distance, so DON’T TAILGATE! Really, you shouldn’t tailgate anyone. The concept of “bump draft” only works in NASCAR. Even then, you can count on one or more “big ones”–meaning wrecks!
- Before you crank up your vehicle, say out loud, “There are motorcycles out there and I need to respect them.”
Now, to you poor, pathetic souls who say, “Well, motorcycles ARE dangerous and you should expect people to not see you.” That’s a (pardon my bluntness) piss-poor excuse! YOU should make yourself more aware of your surroundings, and do it all the time! Too many bikers have been injured and killed because some 4-Wheel Idiot was so callous they did not think about motorcycles.
Are you aware of how bikers support so many causes? For example, John Smith has been in the hospital and doesn’t have enough money pay his hospital bill. Announce that there will be a Benefit Ride to help John and his family, and we will be there with our money. Charities know they can count on us! But take the same senario and announce “Bring your 4 wheels to help John! $25 per car and $5 per rider.” Know what, I suspect you will be able to hear the wings of butterflies flapping.
Dustin is a great man. He teaches at one of the local high schools. He invests his time with those students, helping and encouraging them. One of the few things he does for himself is ride that motorcycle. Now some dummy has taken that away from him. Folks, we are out there! And you know we are! The issue isn’t motorcycles being seen–it’s assinine folks who simply don’t respect others!
4 “Listen, O Israel! The Lord is our God, the Lord alone. 5 And you must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your strength. 6 And you must commit yourselves wholeheartedly to these commands that I am giving you today. 7 Repeat them again and again to your children. Talk about them when you are at home and when you are on the road, when you are going to bed and when you are getting up.Deuteronomy chapter 6, verses 4 through 7, from the New Living Translation
All means all, doesn’t it? At least that’s the way I think; and it’s very apparent that God feels the same way. In this season where the Orthodox faith has been thrown away like last week’s leftovers, this is even more true. Within many churches here in the good old U.S. of A., they are demoting their churches to a way that looks more like the culture, rather than the Kingdom of God. How can they expect to see God’s Kingdom here when they look, think, and act like the kingdoms of this world? They say it’s because they love God and love others. But then there’s this word ALL!
In the world of Poker there’s a phrase and an act called “All-In”! The player thinks and believes that their hand is better than all the other hands, so they put everything they have on the table; nothing is held back. Not one single chip is held back. Now that’s what you would call “high-risk” living! Without sounding blasphemous or irreligious, that’s what it means to love God and to live in His Kingdom. We don’t obey God in order to love Him. We love God and thus we obey Him. So we put everything on the line–with nothing held back.
Progressives think that we can love God and love our culture. And because they love God, that changes what is wrong and what is right. Love transforms the mess into perfection. By choosing to form their values around pop culture rather than The Bible, they cannot and have not loved God with their All! One of the places Moses reminds us to love God is with All of our “soul”. But one of the meanings of that Hebrew word translated “soul” is “appetite”! When one’s appetite is being fed by feelings and yes, even lies, then they are not loving God with their All!
And even many Orthodox folks who claim to love God with their All have another appetite. It’s for the property, buildings, and bank accounts. They are looking for a way out and at the same time wanting to keep those said assests. Now, I want to talk to my sister and brother Orthodox family. Is your church property and assests absolutely essential in order to break free of this hot-mess culture and get in on what God is doing? Are you afraid to leave the UMC because you are afraid of losing a building and checking account to your Annual Conference? If so, then you are NOT loving God with your ALL!
Does God really need our buildings in order to bring people into His Kingdom? Sure, many of us have an emotional attachment to that place. But if that emotional attachment is keeping us from stepping out of this hot-mess and stepping into what God is doing, then obviously our appetite isn’t All-In for God. What I am about to suggest that we need to do is indeed frightening and daunting. But it is also exhilerating, if you think about it. We are being led by the Holy Spirit to step out of the old and into something new; IF our appetite is All-In for God!
If we lose our assests of property and banks accounts, what’s left? I’ll tell you what’s left! What’s left is the God who delivered the Hebrews out of slavery. What’s left is the God who answered Elijah’s prayer with fire! What’s left is the words of the angel to the women: “Why are you seeking the living among the dead? He’s not here! He’s going ahead of you, waiting for you!” What’s left is Peter’s message at that Feast of Pentecost: “This is what the prophet Joel was talking about! The Holy Spirit is here! He’s giving dreams to young and old. He’s giving His message to men and women!” If we should lose everything we associate with our local church to an Annual Conference (meaning property and money), folks, we still have The Kingdom of God and the Presence of The Holy Spirit within us! And to be a part of another Great Awakening, isn’t that more than enough? Don’t allow your “love” for emotional attachments, get in the way of loving God with your All! If we love God with our All, then He is going to provide for us what we need! Trust Him because He’s proven that He is ALWAYS Trustworthy. Get rid of that anxiousness and embrace God with your All!
1 You should know this, Timothy, that in the last days there will be very difficult times. 2 For people will love only themselves and their money. They will be boastful and proud, scoffing at God, disobedient to their parents, and ungrateful. They will consider nothing sacred. 3 They will be unloving and unforgiving; they will slander others and have no self-control. They will be cruel and hate what is good. 4 They will betray their friends, be reckless, be puffed up with pride, and love pleasure rather than God. 5 They will act religious, but they will reject the power that could make them godly. Stay away from people like that!2 Timothy chapter 3, verses 1 through 5, from the New Living Translation
Just the other day I was reading what a fellow clergy from my Tribe was writing about some things written by John Wesley. He took a snipet here and there, and concluded that the word “eunuch” really mean effiminate–not someone who had been castrated. Another one of his conclusions was that Wesley would have accepted homosexuals as “ministers of the Gospel”. In other words, homosexuality isn’t actually a sin. And this is not an isolated view unfortunately. Claiming to be inspired by The Holy Spirit, 2,000 years of Orthodox teaching about God’s designed Sexual Ethic, as well as the Old Testament, has been flawed.
And now, our Tribal Leadership is declaring that they are being inspired by The Holy Spirit to lead the rest of us down a path that was described by Paul in his last letter to Timothy. The result for our Tribe, and other Tribes as well, is an institution that has denied the true work of The Holy Spirit. Now, I don’t doubt their sincerity; but since when has sincerity been exclusively tied to The Truth? They have a “spirit” leading them, for sure. But it’s not the Holy Spirit! Why say this? Because The Holy Spirit will never lead us to something that is outside the boundaries of The Bible. The Bible is the Boundary Lines for us in all matters of faith and conduct. Some are denying this to be true; but they are wrong!
The prophet Jeremiah wrote in Jeremiah chapter 17, verse 9: “The human heart is the most deceitful of all things, and desperately wicked. Who really knows how bad it is?” This is exactly why we need The Bible. Notice the words Jeremiah used: most deceitful and desperately wicked. Without The Holy Spirit we are powerless to change this! AND without The Bible as The Truth, the result is spiritual eunuchs. They are incapable of reproducing Followers Of Jesus, just as a literal eunuch doesn’t have the balls to reproduce another human being. We can be led by The Holy Spirit or we can be led by spiritual eunuchs. The choice is ours. One will lead us into a spiritual awakening that hasn’t been seen in a very long time. The other will lead us into–NOTHING! I close today’s musings with one of John Wesley’s thoughts–thoughts that are truly prophetic within the United Methodist Church leadership:
“I am not afraid that the people called Methodists should ever cease to exist either in Europe or America. But I am afraid, lest they should only exist as a dead sect, having the form of religion without the power.”John Wesley, August 4, 1786
8 If we claim we have no sin, we are only fooling ourselves and not living in the truth. 9 But if we confess our sins to him, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all wickedness. 10 If we claim we have not sinned, we are calling God a liar and showing that his word has no place in our hearts.1 John, chapter 1, verses 8 through 10; from the New Living Translation
So, how exactly does God deal with our sin? Do you ever allow this question to enter your mind and spend some time in there? The answer? Well, it just depends. It doesn’t depend, though, on God’s mood at the time. It depends on us–our thoughts about it and our attitude towards it. Let’s look at what John had to say about it. Progressives have a view about this issue–but let’s see what John had to say.
The first word that should have jumped out at us is the word confess. This word may not mean what you think it means. The Greek word used is homologeō and it means to say the same thing as another, i.e. to agree with. And who are we to agree with? Well, God of course! Now here is where Progressives have jumped the track and gone out on their own. If God calls something a sin (i.e. missing the mark of what HE intends for us to be) then guess what? It IS a sin. And we have to agree with God about that. If we disagree with something God calls a sin, then we haven’t confessed. And without confession (agreeing with God that we’ve missed His Mark), sin remains in us and continues to control us. Got this part? Great! Let’s move to the next word.
The second word that should have jumped out at us is that word sin! It comes from the Greek word hamartia which is an archery term. It means to miss the bullseye–to miss the mark. What’s the mark, the one we miss? Without understanding where the bullseye is, we can’t grasp where the mark is at. OK? The “Mark” or if you prefer, The “Bullseye”, is found in The Bible. Here in The Bible we find God’s Intended Design and Purpose for our life. Anything that is outside The Bible when it comes to morality and behavior, is sin. With me so far? Great!
The third word that should have jumped out at us is the word forgive. Again, I point you to the Greek word John uses. Why Greek? Well, that’s the language that this letter is written in, that’s why! That Greek word is aphiēmi and it means to send away! The pain of guilt is completely removed from us. No ifs, ands, or buts. Even Progressives can agree with us on this part. Still with me? Wonderful! Now to the next word.
The fourth word that should have jumped out at us is the word cleanse. Here’s where Progressives jump the tracks, again. The Greek word John used is katharizō. Progressives would have us to believe that God changes His mind and cleanses the sin–meaning it’s no longer a sin, but that now it’s OK with God so it’s OK for us. To be cleansed means that the power of sin has been taken away from us–that it no longer has dominion over us. Forgiveness comes with the promise that we do not have to be dominated or ruled over by sin! To be cleansed is to move forward in life with the desire, power, and the God-given skill to Hit The Mark–to become who God intends for us to be!
One more thing about that word cleanse. It is in the subjunctive mood. “What’s that?”, you ask. Well, I’ll tell you! It is the mood of possibility and potentiality. The action described may or may not occur, depending upon the circumstances. What what are the exact circumstances? Go back to that first word that should have jumped out at you: Confess! God forgives us and delivers us from sin WHEN we agree with Him followed by the liberty He gives us. I haven’t used this word yet, but I will now: Repent! It’s a simple word to understand. It means that we no longer want to disagree with God and desire our life to go in the direction of Him and His Intended Design for us–which is all in The Bible. Confession without repentence doesn’t exist. It’s just another lie from the pits of hell!
Life is full of changes; it just the nature of life. We can embrace them or fight them; accept them or resist them. Yet, change still happens. Yesterday was another reminder of how life changes. Yesterday I went back to Dad’s home to pick up some of the things he and Mother left me. To my new readers, allow me to give you the backdrop to my painful activities yesterday. My Mother died May 23, 2018; and my Dad died this year; January 14 to be exact. Debbie and I were with him, at his side when he slipped from the bonds of this life and into eternity. And I still miss him. I still catch myself reaching for the phone to call him.
And as I entered that house, it all came back to me–how much I still grieve. But this is another of the many examples of how life changes. Our Expedition (extended length) and my utility trailer were full. More than items, there are memories and stories that go each one. Such as that bedroom suite; my Mother’s parents bought it when they were young. In fact, it was one of the first “store bought” bedroom suites in their little community. People came over just to see and admire it. Then there is Dad’s table saw. He used it to make everything from little projects to shelves to baby craddles. I credit these memories (and perhaps my grief) for awakening me at 1:12 a.m. and not allowing me to go back to sleep.
And I am not alone. Perhaps there have been some changes in your life. They may be fresh, a few months old, years old, or even decades old. But the memories of those changes are still a part of who you are. And this “change” can, and often does, fill us with grief, anger, fear, and uncertainty. And in the darkness of this morning, the Holy Spirit gave me this passage–and I want to give it to you who are experiencing “changes”
2 When you go through deep waters,Isaiah chapter 43, verses 2 and 3; from the New Living Translation
I will be with you.
When you go through rivers of difficulty,
you will not drown.
When you walk through the fire of oppression,
you will not be burned up;
the flames will not consume you.
3 For I am the Lord, your God,
the Holy One of Israel, your Savior.
And for my United Methodist friends, sisters, and brothers in Christ, we are facing changes. Like my memories of the items I brought to my home yesterday, you have memories in the United Methodist Church. Many of them are great and wonderful. And you may even long for things to be the way they used to be; but change in happening! And like any change, it is unsettling, perhaps making you fearful–or even angry. We may not even want things to change. You could even deny that change is happening. But “not wanting” and “denying” will not stop it. It feels like deep waters, raging rivers, even a fiery furnace. So, how can you and I approach AND deal with these changes? The best way is to remember these words of Isaiah. His “Tribe” was facing serious and what could be devastating changes. Be the prophet reminded them–and because we have The Bible–he reminds us.
- He will be with us in the changes
- He will not let us drown
- He will not let us be consumed
- He is with us and will stay with us until we see His glory
God is with us taking step for step with each of us along these changes. So, my friends, be strong and courageous. Don’t give up and don’t lose hope! God has His Best in mind for us; and it will bring Him the Glory! And whatever else changes, this will never change!
52 He sent messengers ahead to a Samaritan village to prepare for his arrival. 53 But the people of the village did not welcome Jesus because he was on his way to Jerusalem. 54 When James and John saw this, they said to Jesus, “Lord, should we call down fire from heaven to burn them up?” 55 But Jesus turned and rebuked them. 56 So they went on to another village.Luke chapter 9, verses 52 through 56, The New Living Translation
Because I’ve read much of Andy Andrew’s writings, I have become a “Noticer”. Some things I’ve noticed have made me laugh, some helped me grow deeper in Jesus, and some caused me stand in awe of God’s ways. And other things have made me sad; really sad. For example, my Tribal situation. One thing I’ve noticed is how people jump to conclusions! Jumping to conclusions seems to be the only exercise some people get! Jumping to conclusions like jumping on a trampoline. You go up and then you come down in the same general vicinity. And when you don’t land in the same general vicinity, well, you get hurt, and hurt real bad!
Case in point: the response of James and John when that Samaritan village rejected Jesus. They jumped to the conclusion that this village needed to become a crispy critter–another Sodom and Gomorrah. And did you notice how Jesus responded to their jumped conclusion? In case you didn’t, here is how Jesus responded: But Jesus turned and rebuked them.” I’ve been “rebuked” by my parents when I was young, and let me tell you, the look on their face let me know with absolute certainty that I had done or said something wrong! Can you imagine the look on the face of Jesus and how they felt? Try to imagine that “look”! And how does this relate to our Tribal Hot Mess? Glad you asked!
Progressives have jumped to the conclusion that we are abandoning the Wesleyan Movement; that we aren’t acting out of love; that all we care about is our property and money; that the Global Methodist Church will throw out women pastors; and that we will whither up and just die. This is what I’ve noticed in their words. But some of you conservatives have also jumped to some conclusions. Some have jumped to the conclusion that all progressives and centrists are demons sent to destroy the Wesleyan Movement; that all bishops are living in disobedience; that everthing will be rosy when we get out of the United Methodist Church; that we just need to get out because anywhere is better than where we are at now. Aha! But is anywhere really better than where we are right now as a Tribe?
The place our hearts and minds need to be right now is in the process of Discernment, NOT jumping to conclusions! Discernment isn’t always neat and easy. If it were then we wouldn’t be in this Hot Mess. It takes time, effort, and energy on our part–and a lot of it. Rather than jumping, we need to be praying–praying harder than we ever have before. As I stated earlier, I am leading both of the congregations I serve to pray first before making any decision. Hopefully they will decide not to jump, but to follow The Holy Spirit. Friends, this jumping to conclusions is only adding smoke and fire to this Hot Mess. James and John never asked Jesus, “Well, what should we do now?” No! They were hoping to see fire come down and destroy those vile and evil Samaritans! Without jumping to conclusions about the future of the Wesleyan Movement, and every movement of the Holy Spirit whichever Tribe you are in, this is the season to ask Jesus–“What do we do now?”
Connections are important; very important! For example, if one is building a house it needs electricity, right? What if the electrician only ran the wire to the junction boxes but never connect the plugs and switches to the wire? Or, considering our current drought here, what if we ran some garden hoses to water the yard, flowers, or garden but never connected those hoses to a water faucet?
Connections are also essential for what today is being called “The Church”. Interestingly, in the beginning followers of Jesus weren’t called “The Church”; it was The Koinonia! It’s a Greek word that means a life that is shared together with commitment to each other and to our Lord, Jesus Christ! Connection is also an important word to us of the Wesleyan Family. But. . .what is it that needs to connect us? Alas, the answer to this question is what has broken my beloved Tribe and created this current hot mess in The United Methodist Church.
For our more progressive sisters and brothers, our connection is that God loves everyone. Sounds innocuous enough. How would we, or anyone, have hope without that unconditional Agape Love? But for our progressive sisters and brothers, this Agape Love means that if someone feels they need to live outside God’s Sexual Ethic (man/husband and woman/wife), then that’s perfectly OK. This belief and conviction they hold is framed around an unproven concept–that God created some of us to be gay, binary, or some other gender that our plumbing contradicts. Progressives want us who are convinced that The Koinonia is framed around The Truth of God’s Word (found in the Bible) to ignore The Truth and embrace this “new” understanding of human nature.
So, for the progressives, this situation and moment is framed around the LBGTQI community. But is it really? As I guide the two congregations I serve through this season of discernment, I am very clear to these congregations that our discussions are not to be about the LBGTQI community. And I refuse to be “in charge” of this season. I am not leading them to stay or to leave. Their decision isn’t about me, it’s all about the vision, ministry, and mission of these congregations; about where they can live faithfully to the God who has saved us and is calling us in His Mission!
So, what will we frame our future around? Progressives believe our connection is love. Us Orthodox folks believe our connectionion is The Truth. Consider what Paul told the Corinthian Koinonia as we frame our future:
14 Do not be unequally yoked with unbelievers [do not make mismated alliances with them or come under a different yoke with them, inconsistent with your faith]. For what partnership have right living and right standing with God with iniquity and lawlessness? Or how can light have fellowship with darkness? 15 What harmony can there be between Christ and Belial [the devil]? Or what has a believer in common with an unbeliever?2 Corinthians chapter 6, verses 14 and 15 from the Amplified Bible, Classic Edition
Now, Progressives will quickly say, “Hey! I’m a believer, too! You’ve taken Paul completely out of context. That doesn’t fit our situation!” But have I? Framing a connection outside of The Truth is like framing a house without nails or screws. It simply cannot stand. Read again the latter part of verse 14: For what partnership have right living and right standing with God with iniquity and lawlessness? Or how can light have fellowship with darkness?” Light and darkness do not, can not have a connection. It’s either one or the other.
My friends in the United Methodist Church–this is our moment to frame our future. What I am about to write will get me kicked out of the circle of fundamentalists–but I’m saying it anyway! I am strongly opposed to any discrimination against LBGTQI persons in the secular places. They should not be discriminated in the workplace–nor in their Constitutional Rights. If they want to be “legally” married, I will defend their right to do so. But I will not perform the ceremony. Besides, in Alabama all one needs is a notary public to sign and to put their seal on a document; if your state laws do not allow this, then all a person has to do is get online, fill out a form, and become qualified. You see, I’m this weirdo who doesn’t mix up or confuse my patriotism to my Walk with Jesus.
And while this should be allowed (not to be discriminated against) in our legal system, it does not mean that it should be OK in The Koinonia! Trying to frame our Connection around accepting any sexuality outside of The Biblical Ethic, just doesn’t work. It hasn’t ever worked. Nor will it ever work! So, if you want a better future, make sure your frame that future around the Unchanging Truth Of God’s Word. You see, there is NO Connection between right living and wrong living.
14 Write to Laodicea, to the Angel of the church. God’s Yes, the Faithful and Accurate Witness, the First of God’s creation, says: 15-17 “I know you inside and out, and find little to my liking. You’re not cold, you’re not hot—far better to be either cold or hot! You’re stale. You’re stagnant. You make me want to vomit. You brag, ‘I’m rich, I’ve got it made, I need nothing from anyone,’ oblivious that in fact you’re a pitiful, blind beggar, threadbare and homeless. 18 “Here’s what I want you to do: Buy your gold from me, gold that’s been through the refiner’s fire. Then you’ll be rich. Buy your clothes from me, clothes designed in Heaven. You’ve gone around half-naked long enough. And buy medicine for your eyes from me so you can see, really see. 19 “The people I love, I call to account—prod and correct and guide so that they’ll live at their best. Up on your feet, then! About face! Run after God!Revelation chapter 3, verses 14 through 19 from The Message
At my previous appointment I lead a small group on the topic of sexuality; particularly in how we need to relate to the Gay community. It was built around a book that I highly recommend for your reading: Messy Grace by Caleb Kaltenbach. The next day, one of the members of this group asked me a question: What is the worst sin? She then followed up her question with her own answer: It would have to be rejecting Jesus. Sounds like a good answer, right?
But I had another one of those “Holy Spirit” moments where He put His hand over my mouth and chose to speak instead of me: That’s bad, for sure. But the answer is the sin that makes God want to puke: Lukewarmness! Jesus weeps over sinners who reject Him. But folks and churches that are lukewarm make Him puke! Picture this in your mind: Jesus kneeling before that heavenly commode and violently puking! That doesn’t fit all those Renaissance pictures hanging on church walls. And Zophran won’t stop the puking.
The remedy is simple: Do what Jesus told the Church at Laodicea–RETURN TO YOUR FIRST LOVE! That first love was Jesus–and loving only the things that Jesus loves. But along their journey they started loving other things, too. And they thought they were OK with God because they still loved Jesus–it’s just they loved other things, too. The consequence of that kind of thinking resulted in a Lukewarm Makes Me Want To Puke kind of love for Jesus. Laodicea wasn’t the only church that had that problem. We see it today.
Progressives say they love Jesus–but they also love their gender and sexual desires. And it’s not just progressives. Even the Orthodox have shown they love Jesus–but they also love other things. They love their pristine sanctuaries. They love their programs. And they love their buildings and bank accounts–because they are more worried about losing their buildings and bank accounts if they disaffiliate with their Annual Conference than loving Jesus first and foremost!
Friends, we are at the edge of another Great Awakening! If we are going to experience it and be a part of another great Movement Of The Holy Spirit, then we need to go back to our First Love–Jesus and the things He loves. Saturday I posted about this. (click here for the post) Folks, we are at our own October 31, 1517 moment. That was when Martin Luther posted his 95 Theses! And the world change; my, oh my, how it changed–for the better. Do you want to see our culture be transformed? Then return to your first love–and leave all those others loves in the dust. If you can’t be the gender you feel like–that’s no real loss; if you lose your real estate to the Annual Conference–that’s no real loss–when compared to the Glory that awaits us now and in eternity when Jesus is our First–and ONLY–Love!
Up on your feet, then! About face! Run after God!
35 The following day John was again standing with two of his disciples. 36 As Jesus walked by, John looked at him and declared, “Look! There is the Lamb of God!” 37 When John’s two disciples heard this, they followed Jesus. 38 Jesus looked around and saw them following. “What do you want?” he asked them. They replied, “Rabbi” (which means “Teacher”), “where are you staying?” 39 “Come and see,” he said. It was about four o’clock in the afternoon when they went with him to the place where he was staying, and they remained with him the rest of the day.John chapter 1 verses 35 through 39 from the New Living Translation
After a week of painfully describing the contention which exists within my beloved Tribe, the United Methodist Church, it behooves–nay, it COMPELS me to explore the options before us. Thus, the song, “Should I Stay Or Should I Go”! The “word” being thrown around is DISAFFILIATION. I thought it was a suitable word until I looked up the synonyms for it:
Even though many in leadership positions, (as well as many in the pew because leadership means influence), have broken away from the core beliefs, vision, and dream of John Wesley, we who are being called by God to return to those roots are being accused of creating schism and are the splinter group. The rift occurred and rupture happened a long time ago; it was fueled by the silence of the majority who sat in silence, or simply chose to complain about it, as the foundation began to crumble.
So, we who are being called to return to our first love must live with that inaccurate term: Disaffiliation. We are leaving our beloved Tribe–but I must ask the question: Leaving to what??????? If your choice is to simply leave one Tribe for another Tribe, to jump ship as it were, then maybe–just maybe–you are jumping off the Titanic onto the Britannic. Ever heard of the Britannic? It was the Titanic’s sister ship. Know what? It sank, too; and in less time than the Titanic.
Now hold on there, partner. I am NOT saying that the Global Methodist Church, Free Methodist Church, Independent Methodist Church, Nazarene Church, Wesleyan Church, or any other Wesleyan group that has left the “Methodist” church is the Britannic. What I AM saying is that simply leaving the United Methodist Church for another group ISN’T the solution. Friends, we are in a rare and unique moment in time; much like October 31, 1517 when Martin Luther posted his 95 Theses on the door of the Castle Church in Wittenberg, Germany.
Our choice, your choice and mine, must not be built around DISAFFILIATION–rather is must be built around AFFILIATION! The burning question for every United Methodist and United Methodist Congregation must be this: What is it that God is wanting me/us to do? It must be about rekindling the fire that John Wesley, Charles Wesley, and so many others experienced that propelled them out into their world with The Good News Of The Kingdom Of God. Friends, this moment is all about the Dream and Vision of God. It’s about how can we show our world the Risen Lord in ways that they can see and want to experience for themselves. This is our moment to decide what is our true purpose and what should our mission be in this messed up world.
The issue isn’t like that classic Rock-N-Roll song “Should I Stay Or Should I Go”! Nay, my friends. This is our moment to step out of the story about a church and step into the epic saga of The Good News Of The Kingdom Of God! It’s not about how much money will it cost us to leave. The cost of this moment isn’t defined in dollars. It’s defined by human lives going into eternity without Jesus. If we believe our buildings are too important to be given to an Annual Conference, then we’ve missed the boat.
Go back to the first paragraph, the passage when Jesus notices two men trailing behind Him. Jesus asked them (and He is asking us right now!), What do you want? But don’t overlook their answer to Jesus. Rabbi, where are you staying? Their question wasn’t about a specific residence. In their culture the question meant: Where are you teaching? And what was Jesus’ answer? Come and see! And what they saw wasn’t a synagogue, school building, or seminary, or even a church building. Jesus’ classroom was out there where people were.
So, tell me friends: What do you want? Do you want to get out of the United Methodist Church? Then the word disaffiliation is your word. But. . .if you want to step into the epic saga of The Kingdom of God, then your word is AFFILIATION! This decision is too important, too critical to make in an instant. Tomorrow evening one of the congregations I serve will begin the process of discerning. Thursday evening the other congregation I serve will begin their process of discerning. Our answers need to be more than staying or going to another Tribe. It must be about our Mission And Our Purpose! Failure to understand this will result in you jumping from the Titanic and onto the Britannic. Disaffiliation isn’t the quick fix. But Affiliation is what will lead us into God’s desirable future. For you or your congregation it may be through the Global Methodist, Free Methodist, Congregational Methodists, or being “independent”. That decision will come after you have decided to Affiliate With The Kingdom Of God!
Jesus said, “You’re absolutely right. Take it from me: Unless a person is born from above, it’s not possible to see what I’m pointing to—to God’s kingdom.”John chapter 3 verse 3 from The Message
It’s time to bring this–call it my musings or my rants–to an end. I prefer to think of these words as “one who is crying out in the wilderness”! Just a quick reminder: Cuss words are words we just don’t say or need to say in public, or even in private. And today’s New Cuss Word is Conversion. According to Google, the definition of Conversion is “the process of changing or causing something to change from one form to another.”
I have a Honda Goldwing; but it has had a Conversion Kit installed to change it from two wheels to 3 wheels. Now this Goldwing doesn’t have the same characteristics as it did when it was made–in fact, it can’t have the same characteristics because it’s been “converted” from it’s original condition. One of the many big things for John Wesley was his desire to see the Conversion of people. Call it Conversion, Being Born Again, or Saved the results are the same. Just like my Goldwing has completely changed from how it was made in the factory, so we need to be completely changed.
Wesley would insist that everyone is under sin’s influence. But to break free of sin’s influence and domination over our lives required that we be changed completely from the inside out. But the message of progressives ignores this need we all have to be Converted! (See in the first paragraph the meaning of “conversion”!) They believe–and want the rest of us to believe–that Conversion isn’t really necessary. All we need to do is just love God and love people.
They justify their abandonment of the Orthodox understand of sexuality by saying that Spiritual Gifts exist in those who live outside of that Biblical Sexual Ethic. They insist that by calling homosexuality incompatible with Christianity we are denying them a place to exercise their “spiritual gifts”. If they see Spiritual Gifts inside them, then those gifts exist in them. Thus it means that God has justified their “preferred choice of sin”. However, there can be no Spiritual Gifts outside of the indwelling and abiding presence of The Holy Spirit inside each of us. And The Holy Spirit does not fill nor abide inside the heart and spirit of any person until they have been Converted. Now, The Holy Spirit is around them–pursuing them–but The Spirit is not abiding. In fact, The Spirit cannot abide in any heart that is still corrupted and polluted with sin. That why Conversion is necessary. When Nicodemus was confused about what Jesus meant by saying we must be born from above, Jesus clarified it:
Jesus said, “You’re not listening. Let me say it again. Unless a person submits to this original creation—the ‘wind-hovering-over-the-water’ creation, the invisible moving the visible, a baptism into a new life—it’s not possible to enter God’s kingdom. When you look at a baby, it’s just that: a body you can look at and touch. But the person who takes shape within is formed by something you can’t see and touch—the Spirit—and becomes a living spirit.John chapter 3, verses 5 and 6 from The Message
By circumventing the necessity for Conversion, we continue to live outside God’s Original Design. Any group that chooses to call itself a “church” must have at its core the conviction that Conversion must happen in each of us. And thus we see today the Chaos and Decline of The United Methodist Church. Our leadership and some of my fellow clergy want us to sidestep the necessity of Conversion for a process that resembles the World–but NOT the Kingdom of God. A church without the message of Conversion is–well, it isn’t a church, that’s for sure. It’s a vessel from The Enemy to decieve the people from The Truth. We must be changed from one thing–one form–to a completely different life. The Life that Jesus modeled for us–The Life that Jesus died to provide for us–cannot become a reality until we are Converted.
3 Dear friends, I had been eagerly planning to write to you about the salvation we all share. But now I find that I must write about something else, urging you to defend the faith that God has entrusted once for all time to His holy people. 4 I say this because some ungodly people have wormed their way into your churches, saying that God’s marvelous grace allows us to live immoral lives. The condemnation of such people was recorded long ago, for they have denied our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ.Jude verses 3 and 4, from the New Living Translation
As I’ve been sharing the past few days, there are words that once had a good and powerful meaning–but now in the United Methodist Church have become the new cuss words. They say there are words we just don’t use in public because they sound offensive; at least to them. Today’s new cuss word is Faithfulness!
When I was ordained in the UMC, there was a series of questions asked of me. It was a serious and holy moment for me. I was making a commitment for my future. And I was expected to be Faithful to them. They were the same questions asked to every person seeking ordination. These came from John Wesley, himself. To answer NO to any of these questions would result in denying a person ordination. Here they are:
- Have you faith in Christ?
- Are you going on to perfection?
- Do you expect to be made perfect in love in this life?
- Are you earnestly striving after it?
- Are you resolved to devote yourself wholly to God and his work?
- Do you know the General Rules of our Church?
- Will you keep them?
- Have you studied the doctrines of The United Methodist Church?
- After full examination, do you believe that our doctrines are in harmony with the Holy Scriptures?
- Will you preach and maintain them?
- Have you studied our form of Church discipline and polity?
- Do you approve our Church government and polity?
- Will you support and maintain them?
- Will you diligently instruct the children in every place?
- Will you visit from house to house?
- Will you recommend fasting or abstinence, both by precept and example?
- Are you determined to employ all your time in the work of God?
- Are you in debt so as to embarrass you in your work?
- Will you observe the following directions? a) Be diligent. Never be unemployed. Never be triflingly employed. Never trifle away time; neither spend any more time at any one place than is strictly necessary. b) Be punctual. Do everything exactly at the time. And do not mend our rules, but keep them; not for wrath, but for conscience’ sake.
Look at questions 6 and 7–do you know the General Rules of our Church, and will you keep them? Now look at questions 8, 9, and 10. Move on to questions 11, 12, and 13. A considerable number of our Bishops and an even greater number of clergy have failed to be Faithful to their answers. I will show some grace towards them and suggest maybe they changed their minds. And if this is the case, then they should have surrendered their credentials and found a place that aligned with their beliefs. I mean, if you join an organization and later found out you disagreed with their actions, then you just quit! Right? Our disobedient clergy and bishops (who are supposed to be clergy also) have chosen to stay and break their vows of Faithfulness.
Now, there is another reason why they may be remaining in the United Methodist Church, even though their answers to questions 6 through 13 are now a resounding NO! They flat out LIED! Now, I’m not judging anyone–but Jesus did say that you would know a tree by its fruit. Many of those ordained in the past few years in our Conference are clearly on the progressive side. Again I allude to questions 6 though 13. They affirmed a Yes with their words, but now their thoughts, attitudes, and actions repudiate what they said at their altar of ordination. And I don’t think they’ve had a change of heart. It was in their mind and heart at Ordination–so the only conclusion one can reach is that they did indeed, LIE!
At the heart of the Body of Christ, the Koinonia, is the requirement, by God Himself, that we, all of us, lay and clergy, be Faithful To The Faith We Affirmed At Our Conversion, and for us clergy-types, that we affirmed at our Ordination! When Faithfulness is abandoned, thrown away like bags from a fast food restaurant out of a car window, then what can possible follow but decline and decay. This is what is happening in my beloved Tribe. We need to remember what Jesus said about making promises:
Just say a simple, ‘Yes, I will,’ or ‘No, I won’t.’ Anything beyond this is from the evil one.Matthew chapter 5, verse 37 from the New Living Translation
He himself is the sacrifice that atones for our sins—and not only our sins but the sins of all the world.1 John chapter 2, verse 2 from the New Living Translation
Who woulda ever thunk it? But in some circles of the United Methodist Church there is no such thing as the intentional death of Jesus for our sins. That’s right–some of our seminaries are instruction preachers and teachers that Jesus did not become incarnate so that He could suffer and die. Sound to unreal to believe? Well, just look at this recent Facebook post from our (alleged) Clergy Page:
I realize that this individual does not represent the whole of the UMC. But his comment reflects the malady and malise that is happening in my beloved Tribe. Humor me as I dissect his comment. He said: “His purpose was what he was doing as a healer, wisdom teacher, social prophet, and movement initiator.” Sounds like a social gospel to me–but without the most important part of THE Gospel. Yes, we should be out there, working for The Kingdom, speaking out against the evil in this world. But. . . a social gospel without the atonement is a perpetuation of the lie Satan told Eve and Adam–“You can be gods!”
He also wrote: “His death was the consequence of what he was doing, but not his purpose.” Geez, Louise! How dense can one person be? But don’t forget–this is what he was taught in a UM seminary. He’s not the first to say this–and his cemetery, I mean, seminary of choice taught him to believe this way. Other UM seminaries/cemeteries are teaching the same malarkey. Now, back to his opening line: “In the judgment of the majority of mainline scholars, atonement theology does not go back to Jesus himself. We do not think that Jesus thought that the purpose of his life, his vocation, was his death.” When he wrote that, I wonder if this was how Jesus looked?
So, “atonement theology does not go back to Jesus himself.“ My personal response to this claptrap is in the words of Gomer Pyle from his days in Mayberry: “Shame, shame, shame!” I suppose, then, that Matthew exaggerated, even lied, when he quoted Jesus:
For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve others and to give his life as a ransom for many.Matthew chapter 20, verse 28 from the New Living Translation
Is it any wonder that the United Methodist Church is crumbling like California in a 9.0 earthquake? Lord, help us! Dear Lord, save us!
Jesus said to him, No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back [to the things behind] is fit for the kingdom of God.Luke chapter 9 verse 62 from The Amplified Bible, Classic Edition
Yesterday’s new cuss word was ACCOUNTABILITY. Today the new cuss word is CONSISTENCY! We are being told that it’s OK to leave behind (Using a big word like mahogany,) The Orthodox Faith for a more enlightened version of the Good News. One of the things that our Council of Bishops is telling us is that they are not changing our historic “Doctrinal Standards And General Rules”; most of which came from John Wesley’s writings and sermons. Sounds good, right? But somewhere between their words and their actions something has gone terribly awry.
Those in leadership insist that many things the Bible clearly says is sin isn’t really a sin. “They”, our leaders, want us to believe that some things (meaning beliefs about ourselves) thought to be a “sin”, well, they aren’t really sins. That it is all a part of our God-created design. Well, buckeroos, what about Article VII which says this, and I quote from John Wesley himself:
Original sin standeth not in the following of Adam (as the Pelagians do vainly talk) but it is in the corruption of the nature of every man, that naturally is engenders of the offspring of Adam, whereby man is very far gone from original righteousness, and of his own nature inclined to evil, and that continually.Paragraph 104 from The Book of Discipline; emphasis mine
As Wesley so eloquently put it, our our nature is inclined to evil, and that continually! In simple terms–we want to sin! Our natural path is to always go away from God. And simply to ignore that and call sin a part of our Creator’s Design is, well, INCONSISTENT. You see, it doesn’t matter what one says–it’s how they think and how they act. Our Bishops want us to believe that our nature is good and ordained by God–even though it’s not. They say we do not have to give up our “historic” faith–yet here they are–promoting and wanting to lead us away from The Bible and our Historic Faith.
Now tell me! Where is the CONSISTENCY in this? And my friends at StayUMC wants us to see the United Methodist Church as this big tent where traditionalists, moderates, and progressives can live together in peace and harmony. But how can we live under this big tent without being CONSISTENT with The Bible and our Historic, Orthodox Faith? We can’t, contrary to their opinion, because it doesn’t work, it isn’t working, and it will never work. Our leadership and StayUMC firmly believe that CONSISTENCY is a cuss word. Oh, they won’t say it is a cuss word. But their words and actions do. I leave you with these words from Paul:
Do not be unequally yoked with unbelievers [do not make mismated alliances with them or come under a different yoke with them, inconsistent with your faith]. For what partnership have right living and right standing with God with iniquity and lawlessness? Or how can light have fellowship with darkness?2 Corinthians chapter 6 verse 14 from The Amplified Bible, Classic Edition; emphasis mine
Our historic faith says our natural self is always going towards sin. They say it doesn’t. Inconsistency is the order of the day for the Bishops and leadership of the United Methodist Church. And CONSISTENCY is a cuss word not to be spoken out loud. Does it make sense to you to “say” they are not leading you away from The Bible and our Historic when they clearly stand outside of Article VII? You decide!
1 For everything there is a season, a time for every activity under heaven.Ecclesiastes chapter 5, verse 1 and verses 5, 6, & 7 from the New Living Translation
5 A time to scatter stones and a time to gather stones.
A time to embrace and a time to turn away.
6 A time to search and a time to quit searching.
A time to keep and a time to throw away.
7 A time to tear and a time to mend.
A time to be quiet and a time to speak.
Since when did Accountability become a cuss word? If you haven’t noticed, that’s how Accountability is treated in these times. The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines Accountability as “an obligation or willingness to accept responsibility or to account for one’s actions”. Notice that according to Mirriam-Webster that there should be a willingness or at the very least, an obligation on the part of every human being to be responsible for their choices. There is a plethora of examples where Accountability is a cuss word that should never be spoken in public. But I choose the example of my beloved tribe, the United Methodist Church, where Accountability is both obviously and painfully thrown away like last week’s leftovers.
My Tribe is in a tither. Some want to make it about human sexuality; but the truth is it’s all about biblical authority in all matters of faith and life. Our stance since 1976 is that all persons stand equally in need of God’s Grace, and all (I mean ALL) persons are of sacred worth, but homosexuality is incompatible with Christian teachings. However, leadership at all levels have openly violated this stance–nearly all without being held Accountable for their choices. And in those few cases where there has been an alleged Accountability, they’ve been slapped on the hands by a feather. But most have been operating freely in disobedience to both our Doctrinal Standards and The Bible.
So, now many pastors and congregations are entering into a discernment process on whether or not to remain in the United Methodist Church. Those of us who believe the time as arrived to part ways (hopefully as still friends) have been called misinformed, misogynists, homophobic, promoters of slavery, hateful, mean, and ugly. But the worst insult is that we don’t understand Jesus and the Bible. But many, who consider themselves moderate or progressively-moderate, tell us that it’s OK and acceptable for us who embrace Scriptural Authority and Holiness Of Heart and Life, to stay United Methodists.
In fact, some have started a website called Stay UMC. A good friend of mine is an active part of this group. They want us to know that there’s no need to part ways because there’s room for all of us. And isn’t that what Jesus wants? To stay together with all of our differences? Not really. The Bible calls for unity–and there can be no unity without Accountability! For you see, Accountability is one of the signs of the greatest kind of love. We all need people who will love us enough to hold us at arm’s length and speak the truth into our lives.
And though they say it’s not necessary to leave–we have these words above from Solomon–words about the right times for certain things. Notice Verse 5: “A time to scatter stones and a time to gather stones. A time to embrace and a time to turn away.“ Then look at Verse 7: “A time to tear and a time to mend. A time to be quiet and a time to speak.“ The United Methodist Church has reached this time. Without Accountability, every person is free to do whatever they want. And the results are an institution built around and based upon Irresponsibility. And for over 4 decades, many in the United Methodist leadership has considered Accountability a cuss word. And the time has come–to refrain from embracing and to speak out. Doing these things is painful and will result in a lot of name-calling. For my fellow United Methodists, you have a choice–either live in mutual Accountability or embrace Irresponsibility. And the crazy thing is–there would be no disaffiliations if only there was Accountability!
My good friend and Brother in Christ, shared this, and I believe it is worth sharing with you, my readers. Let this single comment roll around in your heart and gray matter: “We cannot claim that we know the way to get across this wilderness, but we do know where to start and how to proceed.”
13 Look here, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we are going to a certain town and will stay there a year. We will do business there and make a profit.” 14 How do you know what your life will be like tomorrow? Your life is like the morning fog—it’s here a little while, then it’s gone. 15 What you ought to say is, “If the Lord wants us to, we will live and do this or that.”James chapter 4, verses 13 through 15, from the New Living Translation
Yesterday I wrote about going to have a “stress” test. Well, on the way to Tuscaloosa (an hour’s drive), they called and said due to issues with their equipment, my test was canceled. A friend of mine suggested I charge them $50 for not giving me a 24 hour notice. And I replied, “Plus damages for pain and suffering of going without my coffee!” Then yesterday afternoon they called and told me to be there at 1:00 p.m. today. So here I am, another morning without my coffee. And here’s the Kingdom Lesson for today (and for me)!
James reminded us that our plans don’t always go as planned. Now, I know it wasn’t God’s will that my test be rescheduled. After all, I’m not a Calvinist nor a fatalist. Point is, plans change. I could have ranted and raved about the fact I was denied my lovely elixir of life–but it wouldn’t have changed anything. What I am learning from James is that human plans sometimes go south. Technical difficulties, supply issues, weather–you name it! It happens. But one thing that never changes is God’s Love and God’s plan for your life. And when life takes those unexpected detours, well His Love and His Plan is still in effect for your life. In all of your days–those cancelations and delays, disappointments and pains, the fears and the failures–you can count on God to be right there with you. And His plan isn’t affected by these kinds of things. Now, excuse me, I must convince my mind and body that this water I’m drinking is the same thing as my coffee. And I leave you with a song:
I’m nearly 24 hours into a hostage situation. I have been without coffee! But there is a very good reason; otherwise I would be sipping this morning from the fountain of life. The reason is that I am having what is called a chemical stress test. They are going to monitor my heart, then add some “stuff” into an IV and see how my heart reacts. Hopefully my heart reacts as it should and that will be that.
Why would I deny myself coffee? For 2 reasons: caffiene gets in the way of the “stuff” they give to make my heart work harder; and I have a family history of cardiac issues. Well, make that 3 reasons: I’ve had a couple of issues. So, my new cardiologist wants to see how my heart reacts now to this “stress”. But I’m not worried. The properly trained and highly experienced staff will be with me the whole time to take care of me. Now, the Kingdom Lesson for today.
Everyday life has stress; some of those days have a lot, I mean A LOT of stress. And stress has a profound effect on the heart. Both the physical heart and the spiritual heart. And that stress works hard against those hearts. And if today is one of those “a lot of stress days” for you, remember me this morning. I will be surrounded by those who know what to do if something goes wrong. And when the test is over, they know what to do to get rid of that “stuff” that caused all that “stress”. And you are surrounded by your Heavenly Father and the Heavenly Armies. He will take care of you, and will know how to get rid of that “stuff” that caused your stress.
38 And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons,[a] neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow—not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love. 39 No power in the sky above or in the earth below—indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord.Romans chapter 8, verses 38 and 39, from the New Living Translation
In the middle of celebration, yesterday we have been reminded of how quickly tragedy happens. The people of Highland Park, Illinois were hit smack dab in the face with our current reality. And immediately, I mean IMMEDIATELY folks started talking about where to place the blame. But readers, this is not the time to place blame for this tragedy. What it is, is time to be broken. Be broken for others–for everyone. Including ourselves!
I admit that I wanted to go on a rant about those who have chosen to blame “gun violence” and write about the real problem of human violence; and how the decay of our Christian-Judeo values have led us to this place in time. But even my placing the blame isn’t going to change anything. Placing blame only serves to divide us even more. And aren’t we divided enough already? I think so. I know so!
It’s easy, way too easy to place the blame somewhere, whichever side of the fence you are on. The word for this day after the tragedy in Highland Park, and every day forward, is LAMENT! The only suitable action and appropriate reaction is to be broken. To be broken over the loss of lives. Broken for those who were injured. Broken for those who are scarred by this senseless act. Broken for ourselves. And to you who say you are followers of Jesus, be Broken that we have only added to the tragedy by being silent–or worse–placing blame.
Friends, we need to be lamenting as never before–and for some–it may be your first experience with lamenting. Lamenting is more than crying. And it’s certainly not feeling anger towards anyone or anything. Lamenting is being broken down by grief and the pain of these days. Listen to how Jeremiah describes this feeling:
I have cried until the tears no longer come;Lamentations chapter 2, verse 11; from the New Living Translation
my heart is broken.
My spirit is poured out in agony
as I see the desperate plight of my people.
Little children and tiny babies
are fainting and dying in the streets.
I’m talking about having all the strength in you drained so that all you can do is collapse. I’m talking about crying so hard that you have no more tears left and snot is running out of our nose like a fire hydrant. Lamenting comes from feeling the pain–the pain of brokenness. The brokeness of others. And our own brokenness.
If placing blame somewhere isn’t going to work, then what should be our Next Step? Build an altar! I mean, make yourself an actual altar. Don’t dust off the power tools. Just use what you have available. Rocks, stacks of wood, whatever materials or pieces of furniture are at hand. Then on that altar—LAMENT! This is exactly what I will do today. I will make an altar where I can Lament–over myself and over my world. And not just today–but for every day of this life.
Well, here we are at another Fourth of July, or as they call it in Great Britain–Traitors Day. For my readers across the pond, it was when our founding fathers declared they and future generations would no longer be under the rule of England; now they would choose their own future. We also call it Independence Day. And that’s prompting today’s verbage flowing out of my mind and heart. The first thing I thought about in the dark, early hours of this morning is that question: Where do we get our freedom from? In the middle of all the cookouts, celebrations, and fireworks of today, our nation is a hot mess. Understandment, right?
And I have reached another conclusion about why we are in a hot mess in the good old U.S. of A. It comes from the theme of today: Freedom! Hard to believe or even think that freedom is one of the major causes of our hot mess. Nonetheless, it is! Some think their freedom comes from pursuing their desires. Just to have the freedom to go after their deepest, event darkest, desires. Well, prisons are full of those who pursued their desires. Families are torn apart by those who used freedom to pursue their desires. Many of the homeless are on the streets because of those desires. Homes and vehicles are repossed all because of desires.
Some think their freedom comes from their feelings, especially in the realm of sexuality. If they could just be free to be who they feel like being. There is gender identity chaos and confusion everywhere; all because of feelings. And those who seek freedom through their feelings believe that everyone else needs to affirm and promote that they are right in their feelings. That’s how seeking freedom through feelings works. But this kind of thinking serves only to enslave the person.
Still others think that freedom comes through the government. Fundamentalists confuse being followers of Jesus with being followers of the U.S. Constitution; treating the two as if they were one. Not only goofy fundamentalists think this way, so do many others. Just look at some of the reactions to the recent SCOTUS Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization decision where they corrected the error of Roe v. Wade (which by the way, isn’t about abortion–but about the Fourth and Tenth Amendments). If history has taught us anything (and it’s obvious that a lot of folks haven’t learned anything from history) is that we cannot count on any government to provide us freedom.
These and so many other fruitless and futile attempts to find and establish freedom are rooted in an unrecognized fallacy: “This is true!” What is “true” may not be The Truth! Feelings a person or group possesses are indeed true to them and in them. But they may not be The Truth. What is true is subject to our feelings, beliefs, and convictions. And way too many are living by what is true; all the while ignoring The Truth.
The Truth is unchanging. It was true that it was once believed that when a person was sick that they needed to let out that bad blood. It was true that it was once believed that mental illness was a psychological problem, not a biological problem. It was true that it was once believed that slavery was acceptable. It was true that it was once believed women were property, not persons. My point is clear–what is true is not the same as The Truth.
The Truth has a name–Jesus! Jesus proclaimed it in John’s Gospel, chapter 8 and verse 32: “And you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” The Truth is that God has established a way to live that works in every place, every situation, every person, and all the time. That way to live is found in The Bible. God was overseeing the process of the canonization of books and letters to make sure that when they are all put together–they clearly reveal The Truth. And to be free, to live every moment in freedom, all it takes is our surrender to The Truth. Nothing is more liberating that to be a slave and servant to our Heavenly Father! Now, that’s true Freedom that will never, ever change. It works even when governments are oppressive–and the culture calls it crazy!
The Lord keeps watch over you as you come and go,
both now and forever.Psalm 121, verse 8, from the New Living Translation
In days which are hectic and fast-paced (nowadays it seems like it’s every single day), do you ever wonder, “Am I coming or am I going?” Direction is important in life. It matters when we are going somewhere. It matters on one-way streets. It matters on compasses and gps. And it matters in your life. Everyone is going in some direction. Even the most sedentary person is going in some direction. The issue is that first question I asked: “Am I coming or am I going?”
Many people–far toooooo many people–do not realize the direction in which their life is heading. Without knowing where we are going (or coming), eventually it leads to disappointment and feeling lost. And maybe you are honest enough to admit you have no clue as to which direction your life is headed. But there is Someone who does. God watches us every moment of every day. This is very comforting to know–at least it should be.
Why? He knows where we need to be. And since He knows where we are–He knows exactly how to get us from where we are to where we need to be. And as He watches over us, He provides us with a super-abundance of Grace and Mercy. He never abandons us. When we run away from Him–He runs after us. When we doubt Him–He is still the same. When we give up on Him–He NEVER gives up on us. And wherever we are headed–and whatever we face along the journey–you can count on God being right there–not as an observer–but as our Guide and our Strength.
Love God with all your heart. Love others the way Jesus loves you. And make sure all the glory goes to Him!