That night the Lord appeared to Solomon in a dream, and God said, “What do you want? Ask, and I will give it to you!”
1 Kings, chapter 3, verse 5; from the New Living Translation (NLT)
What do you want? Powerful question, isn’t it? When someone asks that question we may think of something we want, but usually that person can’t give it to us. Like the winning lottery numbers. Now that would be something great to receive. But what if there was someone who had the power and authority to grant you that one wish? Now think deeply about it. What would you want? What you want says everything there is to say about your heart and mind; your priorities; and the ultimate destiny of your soul.
What if I told you there is Someone who had that power and authority to give you whatever it is that you want? Let me tell you a true story. Once there was this very young man, barely out of his teens, who was made King of the strongest nation at that time. His Dad, though he had some issues, was a very good King; was even called a man after God’s own heart. Now he has the reigns of that same nation. Quite a daunting task, wouldn’t you say? At least, he thought so. His name was Solomon.
One day he goes to Gibeon, one of the sacred sites in the nation, and sacrificed 1,000 burnt offerings to God. Why? Apparently he felt inadequate for the task at hand. (Read the whole story in 1 Kings chapter 3) So he did what seemed appropriate–he sought out God for help. That night, in a dream, God did something that some might think ridiculous! He told Solomon, “I will grant you one wish. Name it and it’s yours!” All I can say is WOW! Talk about taking risks! But God was willing–all because He knew Solomon’s heart. And what exactly did Solomon want?
Give me an understanding heart so that I can govern your people well and know the difference between right and wrong. For who by himself is able to govern this great people of Yours?
1 Kings, chapter 3, verse 9; NLT; (emphasis mine)
And because God keeps His Word, He gave him that wisdom; and a whole lot more. Why would God give Solomon a blank check and ask him to fill in the amount? Because He knew what was in Solomon’s heart. Remember the last line in the first paragraph? In case you don’t, here it is again: What you want says everything there is to say about your heart and mind; your priorities; and the ultimate destiny of your soul. The goal of Sanctification is to want everything that God wants, and thus, to become everything that God wants of your life.
How you answer that question–says everything about you. Some of my former Tribal members simply want out of the United Methodist Church. That’s all. And wanting just that is robbing them of all the other things God has to offer us. If Solomon had asked for wealth–he would have received it. If he had asked for peace with the other nations–he would have received it. If he had asked for military might–he would have received it. If he sought political power–then that’s exactly what he would have received. But that’s all he would have received!
But. . .BUT because he sought (and I will use his own words) an understanding heart so that I can govern your people well and know the difference between right and wrong, he received a whole lot more. So, tell me this: What do you want? And be careful how you answer this question because it’s not yours truly asking the question; God is asking the question. It’s not just a once in a lifetime question He asks. It’s that every moment of every day question. So, I’ll say it just one more time for your benefit: What you want says everything there is to say about your heart and mind; your priorities; and the ultimate destiny of your soul.
Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect.
Romans chapter 15, verse 2; from the New Living Translation
You know, I thought I was through writing about the mess in the United Methodist Church. This was because I am no longer a United Methodist pastor. Yet, 48 years of service to the United Methodist Church compels me to pray for the United Methodist Church. But write about it? No way, Jose`! One would think that since the “divorce” is final for many former congregations and pastors, the words about us wanting to leave would be over. Apparently, some think differently than me. Even a friend and brother in Christ. Ron seems to think more needs to be said.
So, I am speaking only to United Methodists who are in the discernment phase and to those who think that as traditionalists they can stay in the United Methodist Church. And from the comments made on Ron’s post and similar posts, there is a prevalent mean and ugly spirit within those remaining United Methodists. He is Ron’s post. I am concealing his last name for obvious reasons.
Let me speak into this statement first: “How many Pastors drove this hatred of the UMC into their congregations?!” OK, Ron, tell us. What was that number of pastors who drove their hated of the United Methodist Church? Was it 1? 5? 25? 50? Of the 198 congregations that disaffiliated December 10, was it 100 pastors? I’m waiting, Ron. And before you give me a number, cite your research and sources.
Let’s look at the next statement: “I’m not convinced that all those members had the desire to leave the UMC.“ OK, Ron. There was a 3 month clearly defined process and procedure. It included first and foremost, prayer. In fact, the entire process was to be covered in prayer. Are you saying those 198 congregations didn’t pray? Refused to pray? This process also required to hear from those who were staying in the United Methodist Church. And the last step was a Church Conference where all full members were allowed to be present and allowed to vote. The percentage required to approve disaffiliation was set at 67% in favor. Did the District Superintendent mislead the congregation on how they needed to vote? Was there collusion in counting the votes? Was there a conspiracy within the Conference Board of Trustees to just get rid of those 198 congregations? If their desire was to stay United Methodists, then why did the outcome of those 198 congregations say otherwise? Again, Ron. I’m waiting for your answer.
Now, let’s take on this next statement: “I blame their Pastors. I feel as if they indoctrinated their people.” So, Ron, it’s their pastor’s fault? Really? Are you saying that laypersons are incapable of forming their own opinions and making their own decisions? Hummmm. Interesting, Ron. I wonder how those laypersons feel about your statement? I wonder if they would agree with your personal assessment that they were incapable of making a factual decision. Or, perhaps, you have documentation to prove your allegation? Pastors have a difficult enough time to implement a simple change with just a simple majority. But a 67% majority? My experiences would find that hard to believe. I know your statement said “I feel as if”, but tell me, Ron, when did your feelings become facts? I’m still waiting for your answer.
Then you said, “It’s painful to let 198 congregations go in one day, not to mention all those Pastors who just quit and gave up their orders. It pains me to see so many of my colleagues just leave our Church.” To your credit, half of your statement is true. It is “painful to let 198 congregations go in one day”. And I wholeheartedly agree with you. But did you ever consider that it was painful for many of them, too? I have witnessed the pain of laypersons who made this decision. They are convinced it is where God is leading them–but it’s painful for them, too. Or is it that their pain doesn’t matter? Or is it your pain is larger and more important than their pain? Still waiting for your reply.
But the other half of your statement simply isn’t true: “not to mention all those Pastors who just quit and gave up their orders“! Just as congregations went through a discernment process, so have we pastors. I, and my fellow sisters and brothers have determined that God is leading us in another direction. And in an act of integrity, we must surrender our credentials. It’s what the current Book of Discipline mandates. We are not quitting, we are following! Following the requirements of the Book of Discipline. But more important–we are following Jesus to where He is leading us. If Jesus is leading you to stay in the United Methodist Church, then be faithful to Jesus, Ron. No one is accusing you of not following Jesus. I cannot tell you what Jesus wants you to do anymore than YOU can tell us what Jesus wants us to do when it comes to the United Methodist Church. I hate to think this, but you give the impression of arrogance. We haven’t given up. Just because you say we’ve given up doesn’t mean we have. In case you haven’t figured it out–sometimes it costs us dearly when following Jesus. At 66 years old, I could have simply retired, and kept my United Methodists orders. But God is leading me in a different direction. I’m not asking nor expecting you to like it–however it is reasonable to expect from you my friend and brother in Christ, to respect my decision.
And one last statement you made and I do not know if you thought about how it sounds: I say to those 198 congregations, “Go ahead and Leave, do whatever it is you need to do. We will continue to stand in the light of God and do our part to spread God’s Kingdom! This will not stop and Jesus will be our guide and Lord!” Ron, I hope and pray you will continue to stand in the light of God. Know what, Ron? We who left are going to continue to stand in the light of God and do our part to spread God’s Kingdom, too. Is that so hard for you to comprehend? Surely you are not so–what’s the word–presumptuous as to think we are incapable of making the same decision! Are you? That’s not the Ron I met and thought was my brother in Christ and friend.
You ended your post with these words: “May our tempers be calm, God’s grace prevail, and by the mercy of the Holy Spirit help us all to move forward.” By us all, do you mean US ALL–or just United Methodists? Ron, if you are just frustrated, I can relate to that. But the accusations you made against 198 congregations and us pastors–well it doesn’t sound like moving forward, it doesn’t sound calm, and it certainly isn’t grace-filled words. Contrary to your statements, I am capable of listening to God and following Him where He wants me to go. Your words, my friend, didn’t form my decision. However, they did confirm I made the right decision.
So, to current United Methodists who are traditionalists/conservatives that think there’s room for you in the United Methodist Church–I can’t tell you what to do. But know that the voice of my friend isn’t the only voice offering ugly words and a lack of grace. You are held in contempt until you agree with progressives. If you can live like that, then by all means, stay United Methodist. I am not abandoning the United Methodist Church. I’m not quitting the United Methodist Church. I am following Jesus, Ron. I’m follow Jesus–even if you think I’m not!
23 Then Jesus got into the boat and started across the lake with his disciples. 24 Suddenly, a fierce storm struck the lake, with waves breaking into the boat. But Jesus was sleeping. 25 The disciples went and woke him up, shouting, “Lord, save us! We’re going to drown!”
Matthew chapter 8, verses 23 thru 25; from the New Living Translation (NLT)
My Monday Morning Question is a good one, and a valid one; considering the times we are living in. And it’s not just in the United Methodist Institution, storms have permeated into the fabric of just about every area of life on this third rock from the sun. Storms are everywhere–not the meteorological kind. And these storms are an EF 5 tornado, Cat 5 hurricane, biblical proportion flood, a 50 foot tsunami, and a 7.5 magnitude earthquake all rolled into one! And that’s putting in mildly.
If you’ve lost your job, a child, a spouse, or inflation has you trying to decide do you buy your medicines or do you eat–these storms can and often are overwhelming to say the least. You feel like you are one of those disciples in that boat. The waves are rough and the wind ever rougher. You know that panic is about to invade your life–if it hasn’t already invaded your space. The fear of drowning hunts you down like a Kodiak bear.
And to my fellow United Methodists, I don’t have to tell you that we are in a storm. And the storm just seems to grow in intensity. For example, recently I’ve learned that Bishop Sue Haupert-Johnson and the North Georgia Conference Appointive Cabinet removed another conservative pastor from a growing church and demoted him–all without consultation of the pastor Dave Hinson nor the congregation known as Winder First UMC. And hearing these horror stories that even Stephen King couldn’t imagine, it only intensifies our emotions.
With all this in mind, let’s look at the opening Passage. Jesus had another busy day of teaching, healing, and contending with pretenders who said they wanted to follow Him. So, He gets into a boat with the disciples and tells them to go to the other side. So these disciples set sail. And what does Jesus do? He lays down and takes a nap. See! Taking naps are Biblical! But then that storm comes up! The disciples are fighting desperately to keep their boat afloat! And they have entered Panic Mode! And what is Jesus doing? He’s still asleep! Now, picture this: All of them are in a storm–and the storm is in all of them–except Jesus. He’s in the same storm they are in–and they, the disciples, have allowed that storm to be IN them. But that doesn’t mean that the storm HAD to be in them. It’s just that they allowed the storm to be in them.
Now, which would you rather be like? The disciples who allowed the storm to be in them? Or Jesus, who was in the same storm, but did not allow the storm in Him? Storms cannot be avoided. But you still have the choice to allow the storms to come inside you–or not! I leave you with this song I Will Fear No More. And listen carefully to this line: Even thought I am in the storm, the storm is not in me! So don’t give in or give up. Jesus stayed calm in the storm because the storm wasn’t in Him. And He will help you keep the storm from coming in to you!
7 I can never escape from your Spirit! I can never get away from your presence! 8 If I go up to heaven, you are there; if I go down to the grave,[a] you are there. 9 If I ride the wings of the morning, if I dwell by the farthest oceans, 10 even there your hand will guide me, and your strength will support me. 11 I could ask the darkness to hide me and the light around me to become night— 12 but even in darkness I cannot hide from you. To you the night shines as bright as day. Darkness and light are the same to you.
Psalm 139, verses 7 through 12; from the New Living Translation
Rather than my ponderings, reflections, and musings–you get to write today’s blog. At the risk of sounding like an English teacher, write your essay–in your heart and mind, and in the comments below if you are so inclined–write an essay answering these 4 questions:
I don’t really understand myself, for I want to do what is right, but I don’t do it. Instead, I do what I hate.
Romans chapter 7, verse 15, from the New Living Translation
The news is filled with stories about conflict. From homes, communities, within nations, and between nations. Even the “Church” is not exempt from conflict. But this morning I want to bring that word closer to home. And the word I am using isn’t conflict–but Conflicted. The definition of Conflicted is “having or showing confused and mutually inconsistent feelings.“ Notice those last 3 words: mutually inconsistent feelings. In this morning’s passage, Conflicted is what Paul is talking about–mutually inconsistent feelings.
It’s not enough to say there is conflict. Nay! It must go deeper within each person to realize that one is wrestling between 2 mutually inconsistent feelings. For example–let’s say someone has hurt you and you refuse to forgive them. And maybe it doesn’t bother them that they refuse to forgive that person. BUT. . .one day they read Ephesians chapter 4 verse 32: “Instead, be kind to each other, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God through Christ has forgiven you.” (NLT) Now, if they are serious about following Jesus there is more than a conflict going on. They should be Conflicted.
There are 2 mutually inconsistent feelings happening. More than feelings, it’s conflicting ideas; more than ideas–it’s between truth and THE Truth: Unforgiveness versus Forgiveness. Our “truth” (not being willing to forgive, as in this example) is in conflict with THE Truth (that forgiveness is uncondition)! If we are serious about following Jesus, the result should be that we become Conflicted! Like with Paul, we know what we should do–maybe even “want” to do it. But instead we don’t. In every issue of life there is our “truth” and THE Truth.
Until we are Conflicted we will never deal with the difference between our truth and THE Truth. And when we become Conflicted, what should we do? Well, simple! First become Conflicted! In verse 24 Paul wrote: “Oh, what a miserable person I am! Who will free me from this life that is dominated by sin and death?” Thankfully for us, Paul answered his own question (and what should be OUR question) in verse 25: “Thank God! The answer is in Jesus Christ our Lord. So you see how it is: In my mind I really want to obey God’s law, but because of my sinful nature I am a slave to sin.”
Jesus delivers us from whatever it is that is Conflicted with THE Truth. He doesn’t bless our truth–but works to take away that Conflicted desire we have. And to my fellow United Methodist Institution tribal members, we should be Conflicted over what is happening. We have mutually inconsistent feelings within this Tribe. So, will you live with and in “your” truth, or will you trust God enough to take you into THE Truth? Being Conflicted is not a bad thing. In fact, it’s a very good thing. Now we are contronted with truth versus THE Truth. Don’t allow truth to guide you to your conclusions. Instead, let THE Truth guide you and trust God with the results.
Making decisions is the most important decision you can ever make! But to make more than good decisions–you need to make GREAT decisions. But to make a decision you need a source that will shape and form that decision. And it needs to be a tried, tested, and proven source; unchanged by time. An ever changing source leads, always leads, to poor choices. This scene from Indiana Jones and The Last Crusade bears it out.
For example, the Supreme Court of the United States. They are preparing to undo a flawed decision made 22 January 1973 with Roe v. Wade. The SCOTUS at that time ruled that abortion was a constitutionally guaranteed right. But there’s nothing in the U.S. Constitution that guarantees it. So, it is about to be overturned. Now, before my Fundamentalist friends declare that abortion is unconstitutional, that’s not what this Court is about to declare. Their decision, and a right one I might add, is that abortion is a state and legislative issue, not a constitutional issue. Bravo, SCOTUS, bravo! About time the Tenth Amendment is recognized. Enough about the SCOTUS.
Today’s culture wants to make decisions based on feelings and how they think. Forget the proven science–each decision is a matter of personal preferences and how one feels. If you feel a certain way, then you make your decisions based on that feeling or that thinking. Remember my earlier comment about having a source for making great decisions? That source needs to be anchored to an unchanging truth. Feelings are subject to change more than the weather. And about our way of “thinking”? Well, thinking is always influenced by information. Unfortunately many are using flawed and untruthful information. (Go back and watch that scene from the above and what happened to Walter Donnovan)
What about you? What is the source for your decisions? Anything that is tethered to human logic and thinking is flawed. Always flawed. Think about it. Have you ever bought something and when you got home and opened it up, you discovered that it didn’t work! Why do you think there are so many automobile repair shops?
What you need to make GREAT decisions is the most reliable and greatest source ever: The Bible! Not what people say about The Bible. But what the Bible really says. The Apostle Paul reminded young Timothy of this by writing in 2 Timothy, chapter 2, verses 16-17: “All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful to teach us what is true and to make us realize what is wrong in our lives. It corrects us when we are wrong and teaches us to do what is right. God uses it to prepare and equip his people to do every good work.”
And when (not IF) you can’t or don’t understand The Bible, God has an app for that! It was developed by James, the biologically half-brother of Jesus and the full brother of Jesus by faith. He wrote in James chapter 5, verses 5 and 6: If you need wisdom, ask our generous God, and He will give it to you. He will not rebuke you for asking. But when you ask Him, be sure that your faith is in God alone. Do not waver, for a person with divided loyalty is as unsettled as a wave of the sea that is blown and tossed by the wind. Remember the words from William the Lion, Duke of Brittany in the movie The Last Crusade: Choose Wisely! And yes, the picture is of my Go-To Bible!
The man’s face clouded over. This was the last thing he expected to hear, and he walked off with a heavy heart. He was holding on tight to a lot of things, and not about to let go. This is from the encounter between Jesus and what we might call a successful young man that had everything going for him. The story is found in Mark chapter 10 and the above quote is from The Message. Think about it. This young successful man knew something was missing in his life and to his credit, he brought it to Jesus. It seems to me he was looking for Jesus to simply confirm he was getting it right–or at least tell him which one of the things he was holding on to was the best.
When Jesus told him (btw the point isn’t that Jesus was against him being wealthy, sorry you so-called ‘Christian Socialists’) what he needed to do, he would not let go of The Grip he had. What Jesus said was last thing he expected to hear and pay attention to what he does next: he walked off with a heavy heart.The Grip he had denied him the very thing he wanted. And it still happens today.
Not with money, but a lot of other things. What things? Things like bitterness, resentment, hatred of that other political party, the politics that created this mess is going to clean up this mess, fear, past mistakes OF OTHERS, anger, jealousy, and a gazillion other things. The Grip they have in reality has them in It’s Grip! So, what is The Grip that has your face clouded over? What is The Grip that is making your heart heavy? And why do you still have The Grip? Let go of it and Grip the life of following Jesus.
Love God with all your heart. Love others the way Jesus loves you. And make sure all the glory goes to Him!
“Raising up to the skies” has taken on a new meaning these days. What once was the price going up 2 cents a gallon, has become 10 cents or more a day for fuel. What gives? What’s happening? Who’s to blame? Some want to say it’s Putin’s insane invasion of Ukraine. And many more want to say it’s President Biden’s fault. And the ones who are struggling and suffering because of these ludicrous increases are individuals and households who have a low and limited income. But let me give you a different perspective–one that goes deeper than finger pointing.
Decisions! Decisions are causing this economic disaster–and it is a disaster. A decision was made that everyone must give up hydrocarbons. A decision was made that the world would be better with nothing but electric cars, and electricity produced only by the wind and sun. And the biggest decision made was to shut down the Keystone Pipeline. The decision was made that the masses did not know what’s best for them, so a decision was made for them.
These decisions were not made by a single person–but a block(head) of people who think themselves so enlightened that they are qualified and empowered to make decisions for anyone else–for everyone else. And how did these pompous elitists come to have so much power? Simple–A decision was made! At the ballot box a decision was made to listen to the hype rather than the truth. At the ballot box a decision was made that it makes sense to turn our lives over to the government to take care of us from craddle to grave. A decision was made to stay away from the ballot box.
Decisions, however they are made, lead to consequences. Even decisions made sincerely and with the best of intentions, can lead to horrible consequences. So, does this mean we are all chained to an Orwellian life? Well, you can make that decision to say, “Yes”! Or, you can make another decision. But this other decision will require you to think–think long and hard–for yourself, using the wisdom of those outside the news media, social influencers, and political parties.
This debacle did not happen overnight–and to reverse this tousled train wreck will not happen overnight either. And the first way to begin the reversal of this mussed up mess, is to form a decision at the upcoming primaries. Decide that enough is enough–of career politicians. Then you can make a decision to reduce your personal consumption of fuel–don’t go to the store for just one item. Plan your shopping trips. Don’t go shopping just to go looking. Don’t go out to eat–there’s a marvelous invention called the kitchen stove. And the best decision you can make right now is to not give in to fears and frustrations.
This morning, my mind was a wandering! I’ve noticed here lately that it wanders off more frequently–and sometimes it forgets to come home. And in the darkness before today’s dawn, The Spirit gently and softly confronted me about this. And even as I tried to focus in on the Spirit, my mind started wandering again. I tried all kinds of words to get my mind back, focused on Him–but it was still trying to wander off to a thousand and one things I needed to get done today. I was about to think it was hopeless–all my attempts to reign it back in failed. It was then I said something different and it helped me. Maybe if you have a wandering mind like I do it will help you.
Here is what I said: “I will stop wandering and keep focusing on Jesus. This is my decision for today. And I will begin every morning with this decision. And with God’s help, I will live into this decision! And instantly my wandering mind came home. Why was this so powerful for me? I surrendered my will and my inabilities to control my mind. When I surrendered, The Spirit stepped in and said, “I can handle this–I’ve just been waiting for you to me permission.”
I had to face the truth that I wasn’t able to control what I was thinking. I wasn’t thinking “bad” things–I was thinking about other things–things I needed to do–things I didn’t do yesterday–things I needed to get done today. And my mind went wandering, chasing those things like a beagle chasing rabbits. My decision to admit my powerlessness opened the gates of Heaven–and two things happened. I was focused on and aware of my Companion, The Holy Spirit. And I now have clarity. I may or may not get everything done today–but I have the ONLY One to help me sort through what needs to be done today. I leave you with this:
You will keep in perfect peace all who trust in you, all whose thoughts are fixed on you! Trust in the Lord always, for the Lord God is the eternal Rock.
This morning at 4:52 a.m. CDT the temperature is 21 and the “feels like” is 12 degrees here at Dad’s. That’s usual for us in Alabama–but I’m not worried because in Alabama the weather changes almost as much as a politician’s opinions. And in that “feels like” temperature I found something to share in this Journey Journal of walking with Dad in this difficult season. As a child, he walked with me; and now I walk with him. If this is the first time to read my Journey Journal, here are the previous posts. (Day 1; Day 2; Day 3; Day 4; Day 5; Day 6; Day 8; Day 11; Day 18; Day 23; Day 24; Day 30) And this morning, the Syllabus from the Lesson Plan of The Holy Spirit is this: It’s A Bad Day For Making Decisions.
Yesterday I got a call that Dad was nauseated and vomiting. In addition, his A-Fib was acting up. So a quickly grabbed a few things and headed north to his home. Fortunately I had the foresight to leave a couple of changes of clothes and toiltrey items at Dad’s. 2 hours and about 20 minutes later I arrived, and found him feeling less nauseated but really weak. The last food he kept down was the day before yesterday’s lunch. For supper he felt like trying some cream of chicken soup, and so far so good.
But earlier he told me that he made a decision, one that I wouldn’t like. He was going to check into getting into a nursing home. He’s been making it pretty good–up until he got sick. Yes, it was a bad day for him. And what he taught me–unintentionally I’m sure–and what The Spirit wanted me to see is that when we have bad days, it’s not a good day to make decisions based on a bad day. I ought to know–Lord knows I’ve made too many decisions because of a bad day. Bad day decisions are usually bad decisions. And I’m asking you to pray with me that Dad will not let a bad day shape such an important decision. In a short time, he will be getting up to start his morning routine. I’m praying that a better day will lead him to a better decision.