IT’S IN THE DETAILS!

The sinful nature wants to do evil, which is just the opposite of what the Spirit wants. And the Spirit gives us desires that are the opposite of what the sinful nature desires. These two forces are constantly fighting each other, so you are not free to carry out your good intentions.  But when you are directed by the Spirit, you are not under obligation to the law of Moses. When you follow the desires of your sinful nature, the results are very clear: sexual immorality, impurity, lustful pleasures,  idolatry, sorcery, hostility, quarreling, jealousy, outbursts of anger, selfish ambition, dissension, division, envy, drunkenness, wild parties, and other sins like these. Let me tell you again, as I have before, that anyone living that sort of life will not inherit the Kingdom of God.

Galatians chapter 5, verses 17 thru 21; from the New Living Translation (NLT) (emphasis mine)

It’s been over a year and it should be finished by now. In the State of Alabama, it only takes 6 months to probate an estate. But it’s not! And it’s all because this alleged attorney who allegedly specializes in estate law left out some details–important details! I’ve confessed and repented to God, and now I will to you, also. I allowed this alleged attorney to lead me into forgetting the peace of Christ and patience. Please forgive me because I’m the one who is called to live by the standard. But with all my wrong choices yesterday, The Spirit manages to teach me something–something important! IF I am listening. And I was this morning.

Ever heard the expression The Devil Is In The Details? It means the details of a matter create the biggest problems. Am I right? Of course, I am! My former (the United Methodist Church) tribal leaders are, and have been for some time, preaching and teaching that the details, the details of living a Holy Life, are not to be found in The Bible. The only thing that matters is love. And this kind of love can only be expressed in terms of acceptance and approval. And all those details about sin revealed in Scripture and by The Holy Spirit? They simply don’t exist. Thus, sexuality is determined by feelings, which is simply another way of saying sinful nature. Ignoring the details has exploded, making the church impotent, and unleashed gender dysphoria.

Amazing (but not really) how progressive theology overlooks what Paul told this church in Galatia. Read and reflect on the opening line in verse 17: The sinful nature wants to do evil, which is just the opposite of what the Spirit wants. This sinful nature is what is in all of us and controls all of us–that is–until we admit we are a sinner and get sick and tired of being controlled by that sinful nature and ask God to transform us by giving us a New Nature. News Flash: the sinful nature is revealed in the details of sexual immorality, impurity, lustful pleasures,  idolatry, sorcery, hostility, quarreling, jealousy, outbursts of anger, selfish ambition, dissension, division, envy, drunkenness, wild parties, and other sins like these. Disagree with Paul? Disagree with me? Well, guess what??? You’re still wrong! And if you, and my former tribal leaders, persist in this current course of disregarding the details of the sinful nature, then anyone living that sort of life will not inherit the Kingdom of God.

Yesterday afternoon, and into the evening, I opened the door to my old sinful nature. And it was ugly; I mean pure ol’ ugly, you-ain’t-got-no-alibi-ugly! And the disgusting irony of it all is that while I was grumbling and complaining about an alleged attorney who forgot the details, I had forgotten the details. Yes, the Devil is in the details. But so is God! In this Sacred and Precious Word we call “The Bible” is every detail we need to recognize and live the Holy Life–which is the ONLY life that God wants from us. I leave you with a challenge from Paul, one he gave to another church–and to all future Followers Of Jesus!

Throw off your old sinful nature and your former way of life, which is corrupted by lust and deception.  Instead, let the Spirit renew your thoughts and attitudes.  Put on your new nature, created to be like God—truly righteous and holy.

Ephesians chapter 4, verses 22 thru 24; NLT; (emphasis mine)
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WHAT HAPPENED TO INTEGRITY?

You don’t make your words true by embellishing them with religious lace. In making your speech sound more religious, it becomes less true. Just say ‘yes’ and ‘no.’ When you manipulate words to get your own way, you go wrong.

Matthew chapter 5, verses 36 and 37; from The Message (Msg)

Seriously! What happened to Integrity? Along with many other virtues, Integrity has been given the boot in our culture; and yes, even in some churches. The United Methodist being the epitome of giving Integrity the boot. If I ever doubt my decision to leave that Tribe, then it seems that Tribe does something to remind me, “Hey! You made the right decision!”

Case in point: the recent action by Bishop Sue Haupert-Johnson and the North Georgia Annual Conference. Where Arkansas only denied 3 congregations the right to disaffiliate, she and her minions have denied EVERY church in their Conference the opportunity to discern where God is leading them. If you doubt the word of this former tribal member, then I direct your attention to what the leadership of the North Georgia Annual Conference sent to their congregations. You can read her letter here!

In their Annual Conference Session in 2021, and affirmed in 2022, a process for discernment and disaffiliation was clearly laid out. And according to these minions of the North Georgia Annual, there has been too much misinformation being presented to churches in order for them to make the right decision. However, their letter doesn’t give any specific misinformation that is being spread among the churches. Just that it’s misinformation! And their conclusion?

After lengthy periods of discussion and consultation involving the cabinet, the board of trustees, and appropriate conference leadership, we have agreed that our Annual Conference cannot rely upon such votes for purposes of negotiating a gracious exit.

So, what she’s saying is that congregations within the bounds of the North Georgia Annual Conference are incapable of discerning whether they should stay UMC or not. But get this: They Are Capable Of Making Decisions For Them! Is this not the embodiment of arrogance? I double-dog-dare you to find any better (perhaps the word should be worst) example of arrogance than this! She reminded them that in 2024, the General Conference will meet, and perhaps things will get better. Never mind that Paragraph 2553 will cease to be in existence at that time.

Then she has the audacity to say, and I quote: “We stand beside you knowing that pause and uncertainty are hard. We pray for you and your ministry daily as together we make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world.” She and her minions are NOT standing beside those congregations. They are towering over them waving a club over their heads. I doubt that Eugene Peterson and his group of translators foresaw this mess. But their rendition of today’s passage certain fits the description of the spiritual conditions in North Georgia: You don’t make your words true by embellishing them with religious lace. In making your speech sound more religious, it becomes less true.

The Minions of North Georgia have indeed embellished their words with religious lace. And their words are less and less true. Lord, have mercy on their souls and may their eyes be opened to The Truth. Before it is too late for their souls!

AND IT JUST GETS UGLIER!

 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!

SOME REFLECTIONS AFTER LEAVING THE NORTH ALABAMA ANNUAL CONFERENCE

Get rid of all bitterness, rage, anger, harsh words, and slander, as well as all types of evil behavior. Instead, be kind to each other, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God through Christ has forgiven you.

Ephesians chapter 4, verses 31 & 32; from the New Living Translation (NLT)

Saturday was–well–a day of mixed emotions as I attended my last session of the North Alabama Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church. At the end of the session, I surrendered my credentials as a United Methodist Pastor. Over the past decades, I have had friends and colleagues who left with great joy. Not me. Even though my decision has been saturated with prayer and God has very clearly led me to that point, still there is heartbreak. The Tribe that I have lived in for over 66 years has made it clear that there is no room for someone like me. And I admit that I was concerned with how The Conference would handle the disaffiliation of 198 congregations, and what looked like even more pastors.

I must say that I was impressed with the way our Bishop, Debra Wallace-Padgett designed and led the Conference in this unfortunate moment in time. Bishop Debbie has been a shining example of how to lead and respond in times like these. We opened with Holy Communion–that Great Reminder of our utter dependence on God’s Grace. As we entered we were given a lava rock, a sign of the abrasiveness that has been happening. When we came forward to receive those sacred signs, we were asked to drop that abrasive stone in a basket as a sign we were letting go of our painful emotions and harmful words. Then the vote took place, with only about 4 or 5 voting to not allow this to happen. And as we exited, we were given a smooth stone to remind us of God’s healing power that overcomes our differences. (You can see that entire session here)

But it seems to me that some of those who took that smooth stone as the reminder of God’s Healing Grace–well they just didn’t get it. By this I mean they got the smooth stone but not the message. At 1:19 p.m., barely 2 hours after those 198 congregations left the North Alabama Annual Conference, a group calling themselves StayUMC that has been encouraging and promoting folks and churches to stay United Methodist, put up a post in response to this event on their Facebook Page. I invite you to see their entire post HERE. I do have a good friend who is active in this group. And this prepared response has some troubling points that I need to speak into. These will be the bulleted statements:

  • We sincerely want the best for those who wish to leave the UMC. In order for all of us to find healing, however, it is important to be honest, speaking the truth in love.

So, StayUMC, you want the best for those who leave, then you put in that however. Now, since you are speaking to those who want to stay UMC, your statement “In order for all of us to find healing” means your only concern is those who want to stay UMC. OK, you can’t experience healing until you have that however. Really? And then you dare say you want to be honest and speak the truth in love. Well, when us Traditionalists spoke the truth with love you accused us of being misogynists, homophobic, angry, and mean spirited. You want your views listened to and respected. But you are unwilling to listen to and respect views that are different from yours. If you are hurt, it’s not the fault of those who are leaving. STAYUMC, if it makes you feel better about yourselves to blame us for what is happening, then blame us. Yet, there isn’t much love nor truth in your words.

  • We rise to speak frankly about this schism and the costs exacted upon us all.

As aforementioned, your phrase “costs exacted upon us all” refers only to those who stay UMC. And what did it cost you for people to follow their hearts and convictions? No, really, what did it cost you? Not a cent. The financial costs of disaffiliation has been borne solely by congregations who left. Why does StayUMC think that it cost them anything for congregations to follow a path different than yours? Well, I’m waiting: Tell me, how much did it cost you? And what if they had stayed instead of leaving? What about the cost to them of abandoning their spiritual discernment and compromising their convictions?

  • We lament some local churches were made the site of bitter fights rather than being shepherded through conversations that deepen understanding. We lament that at times, instead of relying on common values to do the work of discernment, cues were taken from a polarized society, and outrage was stoked to pave the way for disaffiliation.

Evidence, please. I keep hearing those on the StayUMC caucus saying this over and over. I admit I haven’t talked to every congregation. But, I have heard from several congregations. The scene you described has never been described to me by those I know. Besides, didn’t you hear Bishop Debbie say that the time for healing has come? It sounds like you don’t want healing. You appear to be bitter, and are happy to be bitter.

  • We lament that the UMC was maligned by some as being unorthodox and accommodating to culture, and misinformation was spread freely about the future of the United Methodist Church’s essential doctrines.

You keep saying nothing else is going to change. Did you forget that the Council of Bishops promised that the 2019 Called General Conference Special Session would be the United Methodist view and stance from that moment forward. They did not keep their word then. So why should be believe them now? You want us to trust the leadership of the UMC, a leadership that does not keep their word. Just because you say essential doctrines won’t change doesn’t mean they won’t change. That’s a proven fact in the UMC.

  • We lament the reports of some of our laity who experienced bullying, fear-mongering, and half-truths that lead congregation members astray.

Again, cite your sources and present the evidence of alleged bullying. Now, if you want to talk about fear-mongering, bullying, and half-truths, here are some comments from your page:

  • Who knew we had so many closet Baptists among us!
  • Don’t let the door hit your derriere on the way out, bigots.
  • Very charitably put. I find it exceedingly hard to be so charitable.
  • 198 new avowed “Traditional Incompatibalist” congregations in our midst…😢
  • I still can’t believe these folks have left our beloved UMC! The church we transferred our membership to after moving to be close to son and family (8 years there)voted to leave! My family could not leave that place fast enough! With help from former Pastors of ANNISTON FUMC where we were members for over 45 years before moving to the Huntsville area guided us to where we needed to be and PTL we are at our new UMC home!🙏🙏🙏

These are not new words directed at us Traditionalists. We have been hearing them for a long time. And since 2019, the frequency of these bullying remarks have only increased. So, who’s the bully here?

  • We lament because we are not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God.

OK, you’re not ashamed of the gospel. Neither are we Traditionalists. What’s you point? Is there a point? If you are making a point, it would seem you are saying that Traditionalists are ashamed of the Gospel.

  • We do not believe that those who are leaving the denomination are in a season of standing and contending for the historic faith that has been professed for 2,000 years, as they claim.

Excuse me. How do you know that we are not standing and contending for the historic faith that has been professed for 2,000 years? Do you know what’s in my heart? Have you been listening to my conversations with The Spirit? Who are you to tell me that I haven’t listened to God? If you think I haven’t listened to God, I’ll tell you what you are. You are the new sanctimonious Pharisees of the Twenty-First Century! YOU telling me I haven’t been discerning and listening is the epitome of spiritual arrogance. And last but not least

  • Nevertheless, we yearn for those seceding from the United Methodist Church to return one day and live into this vision with the main body of the church. In the meantime, we send you with love and hope for the very best for you.

Really? You want us back? I’m sure you do, if we will compromise our faith and values and kiss your ring. You hope the best for us? Based on the comments on your “prepared statement”, the best would be for us to just die and go away. You’re still holding onto those coarse stones when you should have followed the example of your Bishop. You are still being abrasive. Did you not take that smooth stone as a sign of God’s healing? After Holy Communion, THE Sign of Grace, this is your response???????

47 YEARS LATER

The very credentials these people are waving around as something special, I’m tearing up and throwing out with the trash—along with everything else I used to take credit for. And why? Because of Christ. Yes, all the things I once thought were so important are gone from my life. Compared to the high privilege of knowing Christ Jesus as my Master, firsthand, everything I once thought I had going for me is insignificant—dog dung. I’ve dumped it all in the trash so that I could embrace Christ and be embraced by him. I didn’t want some petty, inferior brand of righteousness that comes from keeping a list of rules when I could get the robust kind that comes from trusting Christ—God’s righteousness. I gave up all that inferior stuff so I could know Christ personally, experience his resurrection power, be a partner in his suffering, and go all the way with him to death itself. If there was any way to get in on the resurrection from the dead, I wanted to do it.

Philippians chapter 3, verses 8 thru 11; from The Message (Msg)

This evening I’m finding myself pensive. In 1956 I was blessed to be born into a Methodist home. In 1967 I became a Methodist Preacher’s Kid. In 1968 I became a United Methodist and a United Methodist Preacher’s Kid. In 1972, I became a follower of Jesus. In 1974 at the ripe old age of 18, I began this journey as a pastor to 2 small congregations. And if my recall is correct (because I don’t have a memory problem accord to professor of physiology Dr. Joe Cooney–I have a recall problem), in 1975 I attended my first North Alabama UMC Annual Conference at Birmingham-Jefferson Civic Center. If someone who is reading this has a different recall along with documentation, then please correct me. Otherwise, without documentation, your recall may be wrong. After all, I’m telling this story.

Why this pensive state? In the morning, December 10, 2022, the North Alabama UMC Annual Conference will convene again at the same place. Now it’s known as the Birmingham-Jefferson Convention Complex. It all begins at 10:00 a.m. The order of business is simple. Approve or deny the disaffiliation of approximately 200 of the 638 congregations in the North Alabama Conference.

In case you haven’t connected the dots, I began my service to Jesus in the United Methodist Church at the Birmingham-Jefferson Convention Center and I will end my service to Jesus in the United Methodist Church at the same location 47 years later. I do so with a very heavy heart. I do not take any joy into Saturday morning. However, I do take confidence–confidence that this is where God wants me. April, 1974 I said yes to God’s call to His ministry; in October of that year I accepted the first step by becoming the pastor to those 2 small churches. I admit I did not foresee December 10, 2022. But then, why should I? So, sometime between 11:00 a.m. and Noon I will count as rubbish my credentials in the Tribe of the past 48 years and embrace something far better–following Jesus!

Though I am not overjoyed at what will happen this time at the Birmingham-Jefferson Convention Center, I am at peace where God is leading. Joshua was 82 years old when he took over for Moses. So, at 66 years old I’m not too old for this new challenge. And with God’s peace, I am excited at the potential for this new opportunity. December 10 is a touchstone moment for me. I cannot tell someone else what to do. I can say what God is doing in this third Great Awakening. Unfortunately, it appears that the United Methodist Institution will not be a part of it.

WHEN TEACHING GETS IT ALL WRONG!

Let God’s curse fall on anyone, including us or even an angel from heaven, who preaches a different kind of Good News than the one we preached to you.

Galatians chapter 1, verse 8; from the New Living Translation

Does it matter what one teaches? You bet your Sweet Bippy it does! Look at what’s happening to kids in public schools! Look at the outcomes of that teaching and you know, whether you admit it or not, false teaching produces heinous outcomes. And when pastors and seminary professors get it wrong–the outcomes are even more nefarious. Case in point–the progressives in the United Methodist Institution. The person in the pew counts on the person in the pulpit to get it right–as well they should. And when that person in the pulpit get’s it wrong? Dear, Lord!!!

Case in point. The United Methodist Institution has an arm that is supposed to feed people spiritually on a daily basis. It’s called The Upper Room. It’s been published for over 88 years. For the December 7, 2022 reading, I found this:

I direct your attention to the second paragraph. She relates the passage to what the person in the pulpit taught. That person said: “What if this wasn’t just a divine miracle but also a human one?” What the what??? “Just a divine miracle”? Really? Jesus needed a human miracle in order to accomplish just a Divine Miracle? I’m not shaming the writer–she is only applying what she heard from the person in the pulpit. But I am shaming the person in the pulpit who fed her that idea. And where did that pulpit person get that idea from? It must have been from some person that taught them.

Progressives in the UMC (and other Tribes) insist they are not going to change the orthodox bedrock beliefs of the church. But what is so very obvious is that they intend to whittle away at that foundation until their beliefs are fully embraced by everyone in their Tribe. Progressives have been whittling away at the Biblical Sexual Ethic, and have caused numerous folks to think that the Bible, and God, approves of this Social Sexual Ethic. Gay, bi, binary–the terms do not matter. What matters is that God’s Design has been circumvented for a more convenient view.

For decades, the morons in their hollow Ivory Towers of education have debated the Virgin Birth–as if it did not, could not happen. In their finite swill called education they have challenged the validity of the Old Testament prophets. Whittle here, whittle there. Now these Empty Skulls are saying that the Biblical View of Sexual Ethics is wrong. And add to all this and so much more, that the miracle of Jesus feeding over 5,000 folks was more of a human miracle, than just a divine miracle. Now, if you are one of those who believe that traditional orthodox folks WILL have a place in the New United Methodist Institution–it’s time to re-evaluate your position. It matters what one teaches. It matters for your heart and soul. It matters for all those who also inhabit this third rock from the sun. Just a divine miracle? A human miracle? This just confirms my commitment to Jesus is right as I disaffiliate from the UMC. And after Saturday morning, December 10, 2022 I will no longer be a United Methodist. And I’m good with that–and at peace with where The Spirit is leading me.

ARE YOU IN A STORM, OR IS THE STORM IN YOU?

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!

CAN YOU RECOGNIZE THE SEASONS?

1 For everything there is a season,
    a time for every activity under heaven.
5 A time to embrace and a time to turn away.
11 Yet God has made everything beautiful for its own time. He has planted eternity in the human heart, but even so, people cannot see the whole scope of God’s work from beginning to end.

Ecclesiastes chapter 3, verses 1, 5, and 11; from the New Living Translation (NLT)

Can you recognize the seasons? Here in Alabama, the “Seasons” are just words printed on calendars, especially this time of year. In fact, our state motto is “If you don’t like the weather when you get here, stay around. It’s bound to change soon!” It’s really hard to know how to dress sometimes. We either dress in layers or keep a couple of changes of clothes in our cars. Winter for the morning. Fall for midday. Summer in the afternoon. And Spring in the evening. If you doubt me, then obviously you’ve never been in our wonderful state.

But this morning I’m not talking about “Seasons” on the calendar. I’m talking about the Seasons In Life. I absolutely love the Book of Ecclesiastes. I love it for it’s rawness; the blunt ways that Solomon describes that season in his life where he was living under the sun, or another way of saying it, under heaven. He’s been living without God at the helm of his heart, mind, and life. This man known for his wisdom, left wisdom at home and pursued a life that left him drained and empty. He called it chasing after the wind.

And it is part of his painful journey that spoke to me this morning, and I pray it speaks to you. Chapter 3 speaks about all the events that happen in life; and that’s a lot of different events–opposites, if you would. And this morning I was reflecting and meditating on the end of Verse 5: “A time to embrace and a time to turn away. Discerning when it’s time to embrace and when it’s time to turn away isn’t always easy, and sometimes even more difficult to know that it’s time to turn away.

Such is the saga happening right now in many lives. Do you try to stay and make your marriage what God designed it to be, or walk away? Do you change careers or stick with the one you have? Do you keep bailing out that prodigal child or let them face the consequences of their choices and actions? And if you are a United Methodist, do you hope that things will change. . .and soon? Or do you turn away? And how do we know the WHEN to turn away?

I truly wish I could give you a simple formula that works in every situation. But I can’t. It’s always a matter of personal choice. But to make the wise decision (unlike Solomon) we need counsel; more than good counsel, we need great counsel. And that comes only by looking about the sun, and to The Son. And I can tell you this–that when the pain creates more and more problems, then that is a sign something needs to change. And here in the United Methodist Institution, it’s the season to decide which side you are on. Remember Joshua’s challenge to the Hebrews? I fully recognize as a soon not-to-be United Methodist pastor, this is the season for me to turn away. It’s been a painful choice–but it’s also been the right choice for me. And I am now embracing Verse 11–“Yet God has made everything beautiful for its own time.” I am entering a beautiful time; albeit a little bit, call it unnerving. But I know this is the Right Season for this move.

And as far as the United Methodist Institution goes, you can choose to live with leadership that is living under the sun. Or you can choose to live above the sun. The Season Of Separation or the Season To Stay is upon us. Our choices are very clear: to live under the sun (meaning with human understanding but without God’s Truth) or to live above the sun (meaning a life of faithfulness and holiness as revealed in the Holy Writ). That decision to refrain from that embrace and to turn away can, and often is painful. But it is the right choice. Using a Biblical Image, the handwriting is on the wall. For 48 years I’ve watched an organization trying to live under the sun. And it’s just not working. Can you recognize which season you are living in? Under the sun? Or Under The Son?

WHILE I’M WAITING!

So let’s not get tired of doing what is good. At just the right time we will reap a harvest of blessing if we don’t give up. 10 Therefore, whenever we have the opportunity, we should do good to everyone—especially to those in the family of faith.

Galatians chapter 6, verses 9 and 10; from the New Living Translation (NLT)

How well do you handle “waiting”? Waiting is just another part of living on this third rock from the sun. It happens every day. We find ourselves waiting for someone or something. Me??? Well, it just depends on my mood at the time. That ought to tell us something about our feelings! Traffic lights, doctor’s offices, at the drive-thru lane, while seated at a restaurant, the cable repair technician–and the worst of all–waiting for the next available customer service representative. But that’s just trivial stuff–though it doesn’t feel like it at the time.

No, I speaking about the current quandary in the United Methodist Institution and that Paragraph 2553. For those not in our Tribe, it defines how to disaffiliate from what has become nefarious. Annual Conferences have defined a process in order to be set free from what can only be described by me as the twenty first century Titanic. Many of my Wesleyan-hearted sisters and brothers have finished the process and have been granted freedom. Well, except those 3 in the Arkansas Annual Conference. (Read my satirical take on that situation here) And there are still many others, like myself, waiting for the moment we can leave Egypt.

So, what do we do when we are waiting in this season of disaffiliation? Well, we can do what we do when waiting at a traffic light. We can fret and stew. Then stew and fret; as if that will make the light change quicker. Lord knows I’ve done a lot of that–not just at traffic lights but while I’m sitting in this quagmire. But I’ve noticed I’m not the only one fretting and stewing. Now, my fellow Wesleyan Hearted friends who are fretting and stewing, don’t be offended at what I am about to write. I’m directing it at me as much as I am you. What good has been accomplished by all our fretting and stewing–anger and frustrations?

It has achieved as much as fretting and stewing changes a traffic light, or for the nurse to call us back to the examining room. Absolutely nothing positive–but it has done a lot of harm to us and the people around us! But The Spirit has given me something else to do until December 10 when hopefully I will be set free. It happened Saturday morning as I was sitting on my front porch doing my usual morning worship time. I have my favorite playlists, but Saturday morning–for some reason unknown to me but known to The Holy Spirit–I allowed my app to select some music.

It sounded unfamiliar at the time to me–but it also sounded familiar at the time. Crazy, huh? Oh, you want to know the name of the song. It was While I’m Waiting written and sung by John Waller. I looked it up, and found out why it sounded familiar. It was in the soundtrack of the movie Fireproof. It was the chorus of this powerful song that reminded me that God wanted me to do something in the waiting other than fretting and stewing. And it’s what we all need to do. Here are the lyrics to the chorus:

While I’m waiting I will serve You
While I’m waiting I will worship
While I’m waiting I will not faint
I’ll be running the race even while I wait

by John Waller; © Capitol CMG Publishing, Songs Of Mojo, LLC

Wesleyan Hearted friends. These are the 4 things God wants of us in this season of waiting–and in EVERY season of life. Serve Him. Worship Him. Don’t faint! And keep on running the race, even while we wait. It will do a lot more for us than fretting and stewing. It has definitely helped my perspective. And who knows–maybe it will do something for another person who is waiting. And here’s the song:

HOSTAGE SITUATION: DAY 5

 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 (NLT)

(This article is satire. If you are easily offended, you should not read this. This is intended for spiritually mature readers only. Reader discretion is advised!)

(From the WHY News Network) Today is Day 5 of what can only be described as The Arkansas Hostage Situation. The Hostage Situation began this past Saturday, November 19 in Little Rock, Arkansas. It was designed to be a final check to be certain that all congregations seeking disaffiliation had properly followed the disaffiliation process. A group who self-identifies as The Arkansas Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church took 3 congregations hostage. They released 32 other congregations but refused to release First United Methodist Church of Jonesboro, Searcy First United Methodist Church and Cabot United Methodist Church. And, for now at least, these 3 congregations are being held as Hostages by the Arkansas Annual Conference.

Little was known about this radical group before Saturday. An FBI agent who asked to remain anonymous stated: “We were unaware of this Radical Group, and quite frankly, we don’t know what to do.” Though unknown and unnoticed by many, there are those who were aware of this potential abuse happening. To this reporter it appears that their warnings went unheard. And now I am sure that First United Methodist Church of Jonesboro, Searcy First United Methodist Church and Cabot United Methodist Church wished those warnings had been heeded.

Those familiar with the situation said it all started in 2019. The United Methodist Church was embroiled over the issue of human sexuality. The 2019 General Conference was to be the one that was to give a final and definitive statement and position on human sexuality. Many plans had been proposed but the 2 front runners were a more liberal view and a more traditional view. After fractious debates the Traditional Plan passed. And though it was promised by the heads of the United Methodist Church, known as the Council of Bishops, that whichever plan passed would be the final word, that Conference failed to live up to the promise. Those who supported the Traditional Plan have called that Conference The Great Deception.

However, those who were against the approved plan were recalcitrant and intransigent with the outcome. With only limited time remaining for this Session, Rev. Beth Ann Cook proposed a new paragraph to the church’s Book of Discipline known as Paragraph 2553. This would allow congregations who disagreed with the decision a means to graciously exit the United Methodist Church. The caveat was that this provision would expire on 31 December 2023. However, the Rebellion by many leaders within the realm of the Council of Bishops carried out extreme acts in direct violation of what should have been the final word.

So, Paragraph 2553, that was designed and intended to help the more liberalized churches to leave with grace, has become the tool used by Traditional churches to hopefully have a gracious exit from the United Methodist Church. And it appeared that it would work. That is, until The Arkansas Annual Conference chose to hold these 3 congregations hostage. The reverberations of this act of terror has sent shockwaves across other Annual Conferences which will soon hold similar Special Sessions to deal with those churches seeking to disaffiliate. Many are wondering if their Annual Conference will make them hostages as well.

The 3 Hostage Churches had met all of the requirements of Paragraph 2553. Yet, in spite of this, they were taken and are being held as Hostages. The Rev. Beth Ann Cook, author and presenter of Paragraph 2553 recently posted her response to the Arkansas Hostage Situation. The Rev. Cook said this, and I quote: “I’m writing this mostly to process what I’m feeling: grief, disappointment, and frustration.” You can read her entire heart-felt response here.

Jorge Lockward and Beth Ann Cook who were on opposite sides share a holy embrace at the passing of 2553

Surprisingly, the hostages have made brief statements. There words were very carefully chosen as an apparent attempt not to exacerbate the current Hostage Situation. The Rev. John Miles of the Jonesboro First hostages told them: “That’s very discouraging, but y’all it’s not the end of the line,” he said. “There’s much more we can do. And we’ll regroup and we’ll think about it. … When we get back from Thanksgiving, we’ll get together with our administrative board, we’ll get your input and we’ll begin to look at our options for what’s next.”

When asked about the Hostage Situation, Bishop Gary Mueller, head of the Hostage Takers responded that he had complete confidence in the district superintendents and trustees as they worked with churches moving toward disaffiliation. But he also did not second guess the conference members’ decision not to approve the First Jonesboro, Searcy First and Cabot churches’ disaffiliations. Terrorist Leader Bishop Mueller also had this to say, and I quote: “This was United Methodists getting together for conferencing, and they made the decisions they wanted to make.” Searcy First United Methodist’s pastor, the Rev. Jeff Jackson, declined to comment on the special session decision, saying his church is focused on prayer and healing. Leaders of the Cabot United Methodist Church did not immediately respond to request for comment.

Unfortunately, what they wanted has resulted in The Arkansas Hostage Situation. And with no official word about releasing these 3 congregations, one is left to ponder how long this Hostage Situation will last. But for now, this is Day 5 of The Arkansas Hostage Situation and there are no indications how long this will last. All one can do is hope and pray that this horror will end soon and without more casualties and hostages elsewhere. Time will tell. With the deadline of December 31, 2023 looming closer, this reporter wonders how many more Hostages will be taken by the Rogue Organization. But for now, all we can do is wait and see how all this unfolds. This is Randy Burbank, reporting for the WHY Network News. Follow us for more breaking news and updates.

THERE IS NO TENT LEFT!

“Don’t you understand yet?” Jesus asked. “Anything you eat passes through the stomach and then goes into the sewer. But the words you speak come from the heart—that’s what defiles you. For from the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, all sexual immorality, theft, lying, and slander. These are what defile you. Eating with unwashed hands will never defile you.”

Matthew chapter 15, verses 16 thru 20; from the New Living Translation (NLT)

Do you still believe that the United Methodist Church is a “Big Tent” where various beliefs can can coexist together in harmony and in one place? If this cycle of improvisational Jurisdictional Conferences has proven anything, then here is the bottom line: THE TENT FOR EVERYONE IS GONE! And count on the Western Jurisdiction to drive the nail home. Any traditionalist Wesleyan-Hearted follower of Jesus who thinks they can remain within the UMC and still be true to Jesus, you really need to think again. Stop burying your head in the sand–even Ostriches don’t do that. It’s a myth. And here’s the story that verifies that The Tent has left the building: https://www.umnews.org/en/news/western-elects-cedrick-bridgeforth-as-bishop

This isn’t the first time for the Western Jurisdiction to elect an openly gay person as Bishop. If this was the first time, then one might could say, “Oh, this was just a hiccup, a bump in the road.” But it’s not the first time. They did it back in 2016 with the election of Karen Oliveto. To do something wrong one time might be (I said might be) an anomaly. But twice? This is what psychiatrists and prosecuting attorneys call a pattern of behavior! And I will be fair; it’s not just in the Western Jurisdiction. It’s happening in more and more places.

And this asininity of the antipodal idea that antithetical beliefs can coexist together is as harebrained as thinking that mixing poison with drinking water is safe and will not hurt you. Our current botheration is NOT a recent development. It’s been astir for decades. Granted, it’s erupted into a devastating lava flow since the Great Deception of 2019, but this has been going on for so long that the cataclysmic consequences has made the UMC irreparable, unless there is a true repentance of heart and surrender of will. To remain in the UMC is Accept The Great Deception That You Know More Than God. Offended by my statement? Here’s all I’ve got to say: The truth will stand even when the world’s on fire! Well, if you are offended, I have one more thing to say: Suck it up, buttercup!

AND THE TENT KEEPS GETTING SMALLER: MORE FROM THE SOUTHEASTERN JURISDICTION!

I haven’t written anything lately. Even though the Church Conferences for the congregations I serve is coming up November 20, Debbie and I needed a respite from all that’s happening. But this morning, I find myself prompted to write. Sometimes I just wish The Spirit wasn’t so pushy on me. Nonetheless, here I write. The recent Southeastern Jurisdictional Conference, I should say “the results of that meeting”, reveals that there really is no room in the UMC for us traditionalists. My first “review” of this sad event can be found here.

At that event, 3 out of 3 newly elected Bishops are in favor of changing our Book of Discipline to redefine what is considered Christian Marriage. If that wasn’t enough proof for anyone that this alleged “big tent”, if it ever really existed, is getting smaller and smaller for Traditionalists, then you need to look at the 3 Resolutions that were passed. (Here’s an article about them) One was called “Leading With Integrity”. It calls for all persons who intend to leave the UMC to immediately remove themselves from any positions they hold within the UMC and refrain from any participation in our processes. I was taught, and always believed, that you are what you are until you ain’t! Centrists and Progressives want Traditionalists out even while they are still in in the UMC. And if these Centrists and Progressives want to talk about integrity, then why don’t they call out those who have no integrity–those who are in open violation of our Book of Discipline. AND The Bible! Seems they believe that my “sin” is not as bad as “your” sin. Thank you Ronnie Wicks for giving me this phrase! And the tent got smaller.

Then there’s that resolution by the “Queer Delegates” (don’t shame me–that’s how they identify themselves) called “Queer Delegates’ Call to Center Justice and Empowerment for LGBTQIA+ People in the UMC”. Amended from it’s original presentation, it calls for the UMC to remove the Biblical standard from our Discipline. In other words, they wanted the UMC to declare that homosexuality is no longer a sin, if it ever was a sin. Remember, it passed. And the tent keeps getting smaller.

And then the third resolution: “Resolution in Support of a U.S. Regional Conference”. This resolution wants to form a way for the U.S. to believe one thing, while the rest of the world is free to believe something different. It passed! Now tell me: How can one part of a church believe one thing and another part of the church believe the exact opposite be a “United” church? I think this alleged tent has collapsed!

I want to leave you with one other thought. According to Paragraph 2553, 33.1% of a local congregation can hold the 66.9% of the congregation captive to the UMC. Centrists and Progressives want us to remain UMC, by the illusion of The Big Tent. Come 2024, that Tent will vanish, like David Copperfield’s elephant. Think about that if you still believe there’s room for Traditionalists in the UMC. Did you hear that? My heart breaking for the church I’ve been in for 66 years.

(Writers editorial comment: I messed up my math. I was using Auburn math instead of Alabama math!)

REV. COPELAND AND THE DISCIPLINE!

Does a spring of water bubble out with both fresh water and bitter water?

James chapter 3, verse 11; from the New Living Translation (NLT)

Isn’t it ironic that in this season of discernment, that our Jurisdictional Conferences have been busy electing new Bishops? Or is it just me? This function is akin to selecting a new Captain as the Titanic begins to slip into the ocean. Now, be it known unto all that I never give up hope until there isn’t a snowball’s chance in you know where. Though I am making my move, I am reserving the final decision until there is no hope for the United Methodist Church. I am holding on to my credentials at least until 31 December 2022, just in case. And though the event I am about to address is just one event–it points to the greater problem within the United Methodist Institution.

It is beyond me how some people think. Or what they use for thinking! Case in point: Hypocrisy To A New Level. In the South Central Jurisdiction of the UMC, Rev. Stan Copeland accused 3 Bishops of causing harm to the UMC because they were not making it difficult to impossible for churches in their Conferences to disaffiliate. Well, read it here: https://www.umnews.org/en/news/three-bishops-accused-of-aiding-disaffiliation

And I want to ask Bro. Stan: Why invoke our Discipline now? Bro. Stan, haven’t you been paying attention to the actions and words of other Bishops? You want to declare (not accuse) that 3 Bishops are harming the United Methodist Church by not publicly denouncing the Global Methodist Church. According to the United Methodist News Service you. . .well allow me to quote what was written: “Copeland said they have harmed The United Methodist Church by acting in support of churches disaffiliating and need to be held accountable.” Held accountable?

Bro. Stan, if you had called for Bishops to be held accountable 20 years ago–held accountable to our Book of Discipline, their ordination vows, and to the Bible, none of us would be here watching that snowball in you know where melting into oblivion. My Brother, remember those words of James. It would do you well if you followed that counsel. I haven’t given up all hope–but it’s melting away very fast.

WHAT HAVE YOU DISCERNED?

“So give your servant a discerning heart to govern your people and to distinguish between right and wrong. For who is able to govern this great people of yours?

1 Kings chapter 3, verse 9; from the New International Version (NIV)

Every day I am more astonished at what thoughts and passages The Holy Spirit prompts in this mind of mine. I never know where He is going to take me. Like this morning. It was when God told Solomon, “I’m not a genie that grants your wishes. But because of your heart, I will grant you one wish. Let me know in the morning what it is.” Who but God would take such a, call it risk? And if you could have just one thing, what would it be? I’m old enough to remember the Sears and Roebuck Christmas catalogue that would arrive every year. And for those unfortunate souls who have no clue about this, it was called The Wish Book! And oh, what I would wish for! And one thing I’m remembering about The Wish Book is that every year my wishes changed. I mean, after all, a 10 year old doesn’t want the same things as a 9 year old. I was growing up!

But just imagine with me this morning that God has given you a Wish Book full of all kinds of things–full of everything anyone could imagine. And God told you this same thing He told Solomon: “Pick anything out of here and I will give it to you! Anything!!!” What would you choose? Would you choose to be debt-free? Now that would be great! To have lots of money? A condo on the beach? A cabin in the mountains? The winning lottery numbers? A big house with lots of acres? To be liked by everyone? What would you say in the morning? “God, I want ___________________!

Now, allow me to speak to my “for now” fellow United Methodists! We are in this period called discernment. Some of you have finished it. Some of us are about to finish it. Some of you are just beginning. And those who are NOT in a period of discernment, you are missing a rare and golden opportunity. As I have tried to guide both Mt. Vernon and Oak Hill, I have kept on emphasizing that it’s not about discerning whether you stay or leave. It is about discerning what and where God wants you! It’s not about the new (but ancient) view on human sexuality. It’s not about disobedient leaders. And it’s DEFINITELY NOT about how do you keep your property or pay the amount your conference is asking of you.

Discernment IS all about following the lead of The Holy Spirit and accepting His leading in our life and in our local church. Friends, our task isn’t about denominational tribes or figuring out who’s to blame. And it certainly isn’t about church property. It’s about the Kingdom Of God, and nothing else! My prayer for each of you is that you will have Solomon’s heart: Give your servant a discerning heart to govern your people and to distinguish between right and wrong. Call me looney; you won’t be the first. But if we ask for that discerning heart, then God will take care of the rest.

WHAT’S GOT YOU ALL WRAPPED UP?

Jesus told them, “Unwrap him and let him loose.”

John chapter 11, verse 44; from The Message (Msg)

Well, here I am again, thinking about Lazarus–again. Yesterday I was thinking about him; and today–well here I am again. But The Spirit has me thinking about something different this morning. It’s about how Lazarus looked AFTER Jesus called him out from the grave. I know, today when people are buried their loved ones want either their favorite clothes or something brand new. But that’s not the way they did it back then. It seems the Hebrews brought with them more than Egyptian gold. They brought back some of the Egyptian burial practices–you know–the one of wrapping the body.

I still remember watching as a child “The Mummy” staring Boris Karloff–not the pitiful and pathetic remakes of modern cinema. If it came on today, I might just watch it again. That was quite the scene when The Mummy came back to life. Even in black and white, it was something to see. And this is what got me to thinking–about our culture and the church today. Just as there are brain-dead Zombies walking among us–they are a lot of Mummies walking around in grave clothes, too.

In politics, the Democrats are all wrapped up with Trump. The Republicans are all wrapped up with Biden, Harris, and Pelosi. Some are all wrapped with with the past. And others are all wrapped up with entitlement. And the church? Well, I can only speak for the United Methodist Institution (UMI). The Progressives are all wrapped up with disdain for conservatives. And the Conservatives are all wrapped up with disdain and disgust for Progressives and disobedient Bishops. Wrapped up in how much some Conferences are demanding to release the property.

And the more we rant and rail against another–the more tightly those grave clothes become. And without even realizing it, we become “The Mummy”! All of this vociferation only adds more and more wraps of cloth around us–and it keeps us from being the person Jesus died on the cross for to make possible. Though I wish the Progressives of the UMI would listen to me and stop blaming us for the problems–I doubt they will. So, let me speak to my fellow Conservatives.

Please, please, pretty please! Stop ranting about those disobedient Bishops and Conferences! You’re only beating a dead horse and not accomplishing anything. I challenge you to remember that Jesus is calling us out of the grave. But Jesus doesn’t want us wearing those grave clothes. We need to be unwrapped so that we can be turned loose as followers and servants of Jesus. Remember, not only did Jesus call Lazarus FROM the grave. He also commanded the Lazarus be unwrapped and set loose! Unwrap yourself from all this mishmash and step into this Next Great Awakening! Besides, you just don’t look right wrapped tight as a mummy!

WHY WE NEED TO PART WAYS!

36 After some time Paul said to Barnabas, “Let’s go back and visit each city where we previously preached the word of the Lord, to see how the new believers are doing.” 37 Barnabas agreed and wanted to take along John Mark. 38 But Paul disagreed strongly, since John Mark had deserted them in Pamphylia and had not continued with them in their work. 39 Their disagreement was so sharp that they separated.  Barnabas took John Mark with him and sailed for Cyprus. 40 Paul chose Silas

Acts chapter 15, verses 36 thru 40; from the New Living Translation (NLT)

As you’ve noticed, I haven’t been writing lately. It’s not for lack of material–but I’ve had what we call here “the crud”. Tests revealed I did NOT have Flu A, Flu B, Covid, Sinus Infection, nor Pneumonia. So it must be “The Crud”! All I’ve been able to do lately is preach and teach and a few other things. But writing wasn’t one of those “other” things. Well, after much prayer and medicine, this morning I am feeling a lot better. The Crud is losing, and I am gaining. And so I am back doing one of the things I love and enjoy doing: Writing! And for those who watched Tuesday night’s Facebook Live Bible Study, you’ve heard most of what I am writing about today.

Today’s passage is what has been come to be known as a Paul and Barnabas Moment.  Paul wants to revisit all the churches they planted to see how they were doing—AND to make sure that what happened in Antioch wasn’t happening there.  Paul wants to make sure that the Message of Grace hasn’t been polluted by adding things to Grace. Barnabas agreed AND he wants to bring John Mark with them.  But Paul insists that he isn’t allowed to come—and thus the disagreement.  Paul is stubborn on this issue.  But so is Barnabas.

There comes a moment—a decision has to be made.  The decision made was different than the first decision.  The first decision was about taking or leaving John Mark.  Since that decision doesn’t seem to be an option—another decision has to be made:  What Now?  Both men seem to be immovable on their positions.  So the Holy Spirit moves with another option.  They Part Ways.  Barnabas goes in one direction with John Mark.  Paul goes in another direction with Silas.  And what about the United Methodist Church?

This moment in the early Koinonia should have been put into play at least 22 years ago—maybe longer.  Sadly it wasn’t. While both, I said BOTH sides continue their rhetoric and reasons why we should stay together or why we should part ways, we have been missing our purpose and our mission. Here are the obvious reasons why it’s time to end our debating and move on, in separate directions.

REASON 1

We are in a Paul And Barnabas moment.  In fact, we’ve been here for a long time and no one wanted to talk about the elephant in the room. The Paul and Barnabas Moment continues to be present, and it will never go away; until we reach the only conclusion that will work and resolve this crisis.

REASON 2

Not talking about this elephant in the room in the past didn’t make the elephant disappear.  Ignoring anything rarely, if ever, makes it go away.  And ignoring it, or choosing not to know anything about it, has made the problem worse, a lot worse.

REASON 3

Sometimes there are principles and truths that demand that Paul And Barnabas Moment.  Some ideas, or call them beliefs, cannot co-exist together.  The idea being pushed by some bishops and others that the United Methodist Church can be a “Big Tent” where there is room for our different views is flawed.  The issues we are facing are so opposite that they cannot co-exist together.  We need to learn the lesson from electricity.  You have a positive current and a negative current.  And those currents cannot exist together.  See what happens when you take a live electric line with 2 wires and touch them together.  Unlike magnets, theological opposites do not attract and stay together.  They repel one another. That just the way it is. It’s time to admit it. And it’s time to stop blaming one side or the other.

REASON 4

The failure to recognize, accept, and move forward in this Paul And Barnabas moment the way they did—is doing nothing but creating tension and even more division—and it resolves nothing.  Folks, the Big Tent, if it even existed, has collapsed a long time ago. UNITED METHODISTS ON BOTH SIDE, WE’RE DOING NOTHING BUT SPINNING IN THE MUD; AND IT’S ONLY DRAGGING US DEEPER AND DEEPER INTO A HOLE!  And we are hurting the Witness of The Koinonia by trying to co-exist.

REASON 5

Everyone is making a decision on which side they are standing with.  Even churches who don’t want to make a decision, have chosen which side they are standing on.  Remember the lesson about positive and negative electrical wires. And while that electrical wire has a neutral wire, there is no neutral position to take here in the United Methodist. Why? It’s the nature of The Kingdom of God; and it’s the nature of our relationship with God. We are either in or out. No middle ground has ever existed when it comes to walking with Jesus!

REASON 6

We have reached critical mass in reality, not theory.  In the realm of nuclear bombs, critical mass is a chain-reaction that results in more neutrons being generated by fissions per second within that mass than escape per second to the outside world.  In other words, a deadly explosion is about to happen.  And the explosion about to happen within the United Methodist Church—if it remains under that non-existent Big Tent—will leave about as many survivors as the detonation of a nuclear bomb. United Methodists, I ask each of you: Are you really willing to push that button and destroy the Wesleyan Movement? I hope not. I pray not! Say it isn’t so!!!

REASON 7

It is better to have that Gamaliel Solution rather than to self-destruct.  Remember early in the formation of the Koinonia when all of the disciples had been brought up on charges before the Sanhedrin?  They were trying to figure out the best way to deal with them.  Some wanted to kill them.  But Gamaliel had a different idea.  We read in Acts chapter 8, verses 38 and 39:  “So my advice is, leave these men alone.  Let them go.  If they are planning and doing these things merely on their own, it will soon be overthrown.  But if it is from God, you will not be able to overthrow them.  You may even find yourselves fighting against God!  I make this plea to our Bishops to implement the Gamaliel Solution, sooner than later. By doing this we can stop pointing fingers and laying blame at each other’s feet. Tell the Judicial Council to go to Antarctica, and let us depart in peace. Then we can go to either Cyprus or to Syria and Cilicia.

This is where we are, folks. It is what it is and all this caterwauling isn’t solving or resolving anything. Failure to part ways is hurtful. Please Bishops, Please! The Gamaliel Solution sounded good back then. And it sounds even better today. Let’s leave the results to God on who’s right and who’s wrong! Failure to do so is just wrong. . .just plain wrong!

WHAT ARE YOU DOING?

John the Baptist, who was in prison, heard about all the things the Messiah was doing. So he sent his disciples to ask Jesus, “Are you the Messiah we’ve been expecting, or should we keep looking for someone else?” Jesus told them, “Go back to John and tell him what you have heard and seen— the blind see, the lame walk, those with leprosy are cured, the deaf hear, the dead are raised to life, and the Good News is being preached to the poor.” And he added, “God blesses those who do not fall away because of me.”

Matthew chapter 11, verses 2 thru 6; from the New Living Translation (NLT)

What Are You Doing? That’s the question a mom asks her child as she’s reaching for the cooking jar, or as her son has permanent markers about to become the next great artist on the wall of the hall. Or it’s the question a wife asks her husband when she catches him looking on Facebook Marketplace at motorcycles. It’s a question about desire and intent. And it’s a question that all of us really need to spend a long and deep time thinking about: Desire and Intent.

If you overlooked today’s passage, please go back and read it; if you did read it, read it again! John the Baptist, who was in prison. . . John is in a dark place–literally and it seems also spiritually. Two of his disciples visit him and he sends them on a mission: Go find my cousin Jesus and ask Him: Are you really the Messiah or should we go looking for someone else? I find this story to be another one of those I classify as This Gives Me Some Hope story! I mean, if the man Jesus called the greatest one who ever lived struggled with doubts, then there has to be hope for me, too.

So off they go on their Mission. They find Jesus and present Him with John’s question: “Are you the Messiah we’ve been expecting, or should we keep looking for someone else?” Now, I would call this a Yes Or No question. Many times when I ask a Yes Or No question I get a “War And Peace” answer. Look, just answer my question Yes or No; that’s all I need from you. I don’t need to hear a Macbeth soliloquy, thank you very much. Jesus could have answered their question with a simple Yes. But He didn’t.

Instead, Jesus says much more; and it’s a great thing that He did: “Go back to John and tell him what you have heard and seen—the blind see, the lame walk, those with leprosy are cured, the deaf hear, the dead are raised to life, and the Good News is being preached to the poor.” And he added, “God blesses those who do not fall away because of me.” See and hear the power in Jesus’ answer. It’s not a Yes Or No. It’s all about what He is doing! He knew Cousin John needed more than a simple Yes Or No! He needed assurance that would build up his confidence.

The Question about Messiah is more than a one word answer. It’s about what The Messiah is doing. And it’s also a question about us and directed toward us. The question Jesus is asking us isn’t: “Are you a Christian?” The question that He is asking, and by the way, so is the world, is “What are you doing?” Are you mad at what is happening in the world? Are you mad at what is happening in the United Methodist Institution? Disappointed? Fearful? Worried about the real estate of your church? If so, then it’s time to do what the GPS does when we miss a turn: It’s time to recalculate!

What are you doing? If you are serious about being a disciple and follower of Jesus, (notice I didn’t say if you are a Christian) then you and I should be doing the very same things that Jesus was doing when John the Baptist sent his question to Jesus. the blind see, the lame walk, those with leprosy are cured, the deaf hear, the dead are raised to life, and the Good News is being preached to the poor.” We need to focus on where people are hurting, where people are broken, and the places that desperately need The Good News.

So, What Are You Doing, Right Now? Make sure it’s what Jesus is doing Right Now! Oh, one more thing for my fellow Wesleyan Tribe. Don’t overlook Verse 6: And he added, “God blesses those who do not fall away because of me.” Don’t worry about things like money and buildings. Just remember what Jesus added to His answer to Cousin John: “God blesses those who do not fall away because of me.”

DON’T YOU DARE LEAVE!

43 “When an evil spirit leaves a person, it goes into the desert, seeking rest but finding none. 44 Then it says, ‘I will return to the person I came from.’ So it returns and finds its former home empty, swept, and in order. 45 Then the spirit finds seven other spirits more evil than itself, and they all enter the person and live there. And so that person is worse off than before. That will be the experience of this evil generation.”

Matthew chapter 12, verses 43 thru 45; from the New Living Translation (NLT)

Don’t you dare leave the United Methodist Church! You heard me right! Don’t you dare leave the United Methodist Church! Did I just upset some of you? Are you thinking: “This Preacherman has either gone bonkers or he’s been drinking the Kool-Aid of the Bishops!” Neither of these are true. My ESPN just kicked in and at least one of you are thinking: “But Preacherman! Aren’t YOU leaving? Then why tell me not to leave??? I’m confused!” Put your hackles down and hear me out. OK? Thank you!

With the slovenliness that is permeating our leadership, it is easy to want to get the heck out of Dodge. And who can blame us Traditionalist/Orthodox Folks for hurrying to abandon this thing that looks more like the Titanic than John Wesley’s vision for the Body of Christ. But then…there’s this parable of Jesus. It’s about a man who got rid of one demon, cleaned up his house, got it in order–but that’s all he did. That demon knew this, so he went back to check things out. Sure enough! It was all clean and in order–but that’s all. So he goes and gets 7 of his friends (who are also demons; I mean, who would be a friend to a demon but another demon, right?) and moves right back in. And that’s when things got a lot worse for that man. Comprende, my friends?

Sure we could just leave the United Methodist Institution and believewrongly believe, I might addthat we are finally free from this detritus and onerous thing. We might think we will be better off. But take into your considerations this thought: Where Will You Go? Oh, one more consideration: What are you going to do once you get there? If your only desire is to get away from the United Methodist Institution, you can achieve that desire. But what’s next? If you just leave without knowing the what’s next you are leaving the door open for even worse of the same-ol’-same-ol’. Remember this guy in Jesus’ story. He got out of one mess only to end up in an even bigger mess.

My fellow Wesleyans, this season of discernment is another one of God’s blessings to us. We have the opportunity to do more than just leave, we are being gifted by God’s Grace to become a part of renewal and revival across our land. To use an old term: Another Great Awakening! Whether you choose to become part of the Free Methodist, Wesleyan Methodist, Global Methodist, or become independent–do so with the faith, hope, and conviction that it’s because God’s Kingdom is on the move and YOU get to be a part of this mighty movement! And please understand that it may require you to let go of a lot of ideas, opinions, and other stuff–so that you can step into what God is doing right now.

Friends, not every generation and age has had this rare and beautiful moment of stepping out of the old and into this fresh movement of the Holy Spirit. But we do! Step away from what was–AND step into what God is doing right now! Don’t dream about leaving! Please don’t! Instead, dream about what God is doing and where He is leading us. I am applying to transfer my credentials to the Global Methodist Church–not because I’m sick and tired of the United Methodist Institution; even though I AM sick and tired of it. No, my friends. I stepping into a fresh and new movement of the Holy Spirit! I have been doing more than just discerning about leaving the United Methodist Institution! I’ve been discerning what God is wanting from and for me and where that is going to happen! I’m getting in on the ground level and am excited to be a small part of seeing this movement form and grow! You can just leave, or you can step into another Great Awakening! Your choice!

THE DEMONIZATION OF THE BIBLE!

You can rationalize it all you want and justify the path of error you have chosen, but you’ll find out in the end that you took the road to destruction.

Proverbs chapter 14, verse 12; from The Passion Translation

Yep! I just said it! And I don’t take it back. If it’s offensive to you, then toughen up, buttercup! There are those who are demonizing the Holy Writ! I know, I know! That’s strong words; but sometimes strong words are needed. And this is such a time! It’s not a new thing that’s just happened. It’s been around for thousands of years. Heck, even the Master of the Demons tried this trick with Jesus. But it didn’t work on Jesus. And it doesn’t need to work on us, either!

For those keeping up with the soap opera known as The Schism Of The United Methodist Institution, it’s being played out in front of our eyes. Maybe I should define the contextualization (we hear this a lot) of my affirmation that Holy Scriptures are being demonized! Straight out of the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, demonization means: to portray (someone or something) as evil or as worthy of contempt or blame; to vilify“! Remember, this isn’t a new phenomena to the Twenty-First Century. Now, what I call demonization, others say, “Well, that’s my interpretation.” Or, “That’s just your interpretation.”

As part of our process for discernment and disaffiliation from the United Methodist Institution, we are required to listen to both sides of this issue. 8 days ago we heard about why the time is right and ripe to disaffiliate from the United Methodist Institution (UMI) and affiliate with the Global Methodist Church. This past Sunday we heard why we should remain in the United Methodist Institution (UMI). And their presentation was that there are just differing interpretations of Scripture–but the UMI is a Big Tent where we can all live together with those differing interpretations of Scripture. Sounds good right? But then there’s that pesky Solomon and his Book Of Proverbs. The New King James Version renders it like this: “There is a way that seems right to a man, But its end is the way of death.”

I realize and accept that right now we are living in a world of grays. And that for many of us The Bible is Black and White; right and wrong; holy and unholy; blessed by God and not blessed by God. Granted, it seems like there are ways to understand the same passage in different ways. For example, 1 Corinthians chapter 14, verse 34:

Women should be silent during the church meetings. It is not proper for them to speak. They should be submissive, just as the law says.

New Living Translation (NLT)

Some say this is black and white. NO Women Preachers Allowed! Now, I can see how some interpret this to mean no women preachers. But “The Law” that Paul was referencing was Roman Law! Women were not allowed to interrupt speakers in public forums. Truth Time! They could not accuse their husbands of adultery. THEY could be accused, but they couldn’t accuse. And the whole of chapter 14 is about all the chaos that was happening when the Corinthians were, as we would say, “In Church”! And those who demand that there can be no women preachers demonize the prophet Joel, and the apostle Peter:

Then, after doing all those things, I will pour out my Spirit upon all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy. Your old men will dream dreams, and your young men will see visions.

Joel chapter 2, verse 28; from the NLT

Then Peter stepped forward with the eleven other apostles and shouted to the crowd, “Listen carefully, all of you, fellow Jews and residents of Jerusalem! Make no mistake about this. These people are not drunk, as some of you are assuming. Nine o’clock in the morning is much too early for that. No, what you see was predicted long ago by the prophet Joel: ‘In the last days,’ God says, ‘I will pour out my Spirit upon all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy. Your young men will see visions, and your old men will dream dreams. In those days I will pour out my Spirit even on my servants—men and women alike—and they will prophesy.

Acts chapter 2, verses 14 thru 18; NLT (emphasis mine)

And today, because of “their” interpretations some want to change the Biblical Sexual Ethic by insisting that it’s OK to be LBGTQI and that they are just living out how God created them. For them, it’s all about love and grace. And that we can’t love them unless we also agree that God created them this way. Gray, Gray, and even more Gray. While I could excuse those who insist on no women preachers as being ignorant of Roman Law (and ignorant of the rest of the Bible), there is no gray in the Bible when it comes to sexuality and the sexual ethic:

“Haven’t you read the Scriptures?” Jesus replied. “They record that from the beginning ‘God made them male and female.’”  And he said, “‘This explains why a man leaves his father and mother and is joined to his wife, and the two are united into one.’

Matthew chapter 19, verses 4 and 5

Now, if Jesus correctly understood that Genesis chapter 2 is God’s design and plan, then there is no gray area left. Someone might say that Jesus was answering a Pharisee’s question about divorce. And He was; divorce was never God’s design and plan. And just like every other sin (except the Unpardonable one), it can be forgiven and the individuals get a fresh start. But to call the Biblical Sexual Ethic a gray area? And then justify that view by throwing in some other scriptures (out of their contextualization)? Well, one is demonizing the Holy Writ. And that’s just wrong. So very wrong!

WHAT ARE THEY TEACHING???

So letting your sinful nature control your mind leads to death. But letting the Spirit control your mind leads to life and peace. For the sinful nature is always hostile to God. It never did obey God’s laws, and it never will.

Romans chapter 8, verses 6-7; from the New Living Translation (NLT)

Recently I had a conversation with a fellow United Methodist clergy on Facebook. It was focused on a post this individual had made. It was surprisingly civil (up to this point)–still, I couldn’t help but think: What are they teaching now in United Methodist Seminaries? Here’s the screenshot of that comment:

This person compared understanding Scriptures to a 3-legged stool. The top is the Scriptures and the 3 legs are tradition, reason, and experience. Thus, without tradition, or reason, or experience, one cannot adequately understand Scripture. The primary (and often times “sole determining factor”) way to understand Scripture is through tradition, reason, and experience. Now, before you call me that dreaded “fundamentalist”, hear me out. We do not study the Scriptures in a vacuum. There are traditions. We all have experiences. And God created us to be able to reason, or think if you prefer.

But it seems that many of our clergy are using reason as the final determining factor. In other words, if it doesn’t make sense to us, or if the culture tells us something contrary, then we are free to change or ignore what the Bible clearly teaches. This is what many seminaries are teaching. Not all of them, mind you; but enough of them are and the result has been the dilution and devolution of the power of Scripture to guide us and form in us the life of Holiness demanded by God for His Image Bearers. Go back to the writer’s analogy of that three-legged stool.

The writer is correct in stating that for a three-legged stool to be secure enough to sit on, it needs all three legs. And, by implication, those 3 legs need to be the same length. Otherwise it is unstable. But do not overlook the other implication–that Scripture (the seat of that three-legged stool) cannot safely support us until all three of those legs are the same length. In other words, Scripture is to be formed by OUR traditions, experiences, and reasoning.

Can I be frank with you? I know, my name is Randy. But I need to be FRANK with you this morning. Using the writer’s analogy of that three-legged stool, when those who are supposed to be our Spiritual Leaders are taught that human reasoning overrides the Scriptures and that we need to change our beliefs about anything in the Bible, then the result is the chaos and soon to follow destruction of the United Methodist, and any other church that follows the same primrose path. And to my fundamentalist friends, if you allow your traditions to determine your beliefs about the Bible, then your three-legged stool is just as unsteady.

Hear me out! Yes, reason, tradition, and experience are helpful tools when it comes to understanding Scripture! But they do not determine what is THE TRUTH! The Truth is set by the Bible for all matters of faith, life, and conduct. But none of them gives us the permission to change The Standard clearly set in The Bible! From my perspective, many seminary professors took a bite of that apple Satan offered Eve and Adam, and unlike Eve and Adam who recognized the shame and mistake, they “reason” that the apple is good, and that Satan was right. Is there any doubts now as to why the United Methodist Tribe is imploding? It looks like that three-legged stool analogy doesn’t work after all.

ARE YOU THANKFUL FOR THE STRUGGLES?

Be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus.

1 Thessalonians chapter 5, verse 18; from the New Living Translation (NLT)

Well, I didn’t muse and write yesterday because we were packing up and cleaning up from our recent spiritual retreat on the beach at Pensacola. Then the drive home. A few stops for food, gas, and shopping–then unpacking when we arrived home. And though I usually take Saturday as a Sabbath from writing, this morning is different. As the Spirit and I were talking (for the uninformed it’s also known as prayer) He gave me this thought: Are You Thankful For The Struggles?

So many are in some type of struggle–myself included. Shocker Alert: We all have struggles! For some of you, I didn’t have to say that. Maybe you are struggling with some type of addiction (and surely you know there are more types of addictions than chemical addictions, don’t you?) Maybe it’s a rebellious child at home. Perhaps it’s you are living out the story of The Prodigal Son. Maybe it’s your marriage. A friendship. Your health. The health of a loved one. Perhaps even finding a new job or career. As Forrest Gump said in the movie: “It happens.” Or maybe your struggle is in and with the United Methodist (Alleged) Church.

The struggle, whatever it may be, is literally eating you alive. You’ve tried a gazillion things to end the struggle. Perhaps you’ve resigned to burying you hand in the sand, hoping it will go away–but even Ostriches know that doesn’t work. So, what now? Maybe now is the time to follow Paul’s advice to the church at Thessalonica–Be Thankful! Did you or someone else just think: “What tha’………….?” Yes, I said Be Thankful for our struggles! And I just heard a reader say out loud, “You’re crazy Preacherman! There’s nothing to help me by being thankful! I’m not reading any more of your insane gibberish!”

Hold on, pardner! Try to stay in the saddle just a couple of more minutes. Struggles are ripe moments to grow in both grace and wisdom. Lord knows we need a lot more wisdom in these days. We can be thankful for our struggles when we do 3 simple, yet deeply profound things–and here they are:

Lean Into The Spirit!

Choose in this moment of struggle to get closer to The Holy Spirit. Struggles are loud–VERY loud. And without leaning into The Spirit we will not be able to hear Him.

Lean on the spirit!

Let’s get real! In every struggle we are leaning on something! No exceptions! Either ourselves, another person, our chemical of choice–remember, no exceptions. Instead, lean ON The Spirit. Rely on The Holy Spirit to help you and even carry you when you are totally overwhelmed.

count on the spirit

When struggles seem impossible to overcome, it’s because we have empowered the struggle to be more powerful than anything else. Put your confidence in the work, power, and purposes of The Holy Spirit! ALL of your confidence. It may well be that His Plan isn’t in alignment with YOUR plan. Still, Count On The Holy Spirit to bring Victory over our struggles. The Spirit will never abandon you! So, count on The Spirit in the struggles.

As we do these 3 simple yet profound things, something amazing, maybe even unexpected by us, happens. We become thankful–thankful that God’s plans are so much better, so much more powerful than anything we can ever imagine. For then we live fully confident in God. And when we are living fully confident that God has us AND our struggles, those struggles lose its power over us and we become Victors! Even in this season of pondering disaffiliation!

ARE YOU FIT FOR THE KINGDOM OF GOD?

But Jesus told him, “Anyone who puts a hand to the plow and then looks back is not fit for the Kingdom of God.”

Luke chapter 9, verse 62; from the New Living Translation (NLT)

As you may have surmised from this week’s posts, I had planned to re-post some of my previous musings so that I would have more time to enjoy this brief vacation. When I announced (to myself) this would be my plan, The Father looked at the Son, then The Spirit–and all three of them laughed and laughed and laughed! When will I ever learn? So, what has changed? Glad you asked!

At least in my locale, I’m hearing sad stories about some folks who are beginning to waffle on disaffiliation as the time grows close to make the “official” decision. And I do not know their reason(s) for waffling. I am willing to allow that the Holy Spirit has told them to change their minds. After all, I wasn’t privy to their original nor subsequent conversations with The Spirit. But I can’t help but wonder like Paul did about the church in Galatia: “You were running the race so well. Who has held you back from following the truth? It certainly isn’t God, for He is the one who called you to freedom.” (Galatians chapter 5, verses 7 and 8; NLT)

My deepest concern right now for those folks is the same one I’ve had since this Disaffiliation Movement started: That church property, ‘their‘ property, is more important than the Kingdom of God. It’s as if God can’t do something with them unless they have their property. Surely God is capable of handling their future even IF they lose their property. And I will admit it–it’s scary starting from scratch. And what about those founders of their church? Don’t you think they may be been scared of starting a new church? But starting something new with God is also exhilerating because we must trust Him, who never abandons HIS Kingdom, completely and without reservations or hesitations. Following Jesus and The Kingdom is never free of risks–but the rewards far outweigh the risks. Reality Check: It’s always been risky following Jesus. And that’s OK!

If you are one of those “second-guessing” the decision to disaffiliate, remember the words of Jesus I opened with today: But Jesus told him, “Anyone who puts a hand to the plow and then looks back is not fit for the Kingdom of God.” Back to my original question: Are you fit for the Kingdom of God? I didn’t ask if you were worthy! None of us are worthy. But are you fit for the Kingdom of God? If you waffle and look back, Jesus says you aren’t. But if you keep looking forward, disregarding the price of following Jesus, it makes you fit for the Kingdom! And least you think I’m only trying to shame the ones looking back, I end with these other words from Paul to encourage all of us not to look back after we’ve put our hands to the plow:

Those who live only to satisfy their own sinful nature will harvest decay and death from that sinful nature. But those who live to please the Spirit will harvest everlasting life from the Spirit. So let’s not get tired of doing what is good. At just the right time we will reap a harvest of blessing if we don’t give up.

Galatians chapter 6, verses 8 and 9; from the NLT

So, keep plowing straight by looking forward, and don’t give up. Just don’t give up!

SIX YEARS AGO

I’m still on our spiritual retreat at the beach. My plan was to share some of my previous posts rather than writing new ones. And as I was praying and looking, and yes, thinking, I found this post from six years ago. Honestly, in 2016 I didn’t have a clue of how true it would be, especially this line: “I foresee the time coming of a “split” or “divorce” within the United Methodist Church, and coming much sooner than many anticipate.” And no, I do no consider myself a “predictor of the future”.

At that time, a ‘commission’ was formed to ‘find our way forward’. And in 2019, a called General Conference was convened in St. Louis to settle “that” issue once and for all. But read this in the context of 2016. Oh, and when I mention my age, add 6 years to it. Here is that blog:

CAN THERE BE UNITY WHEN. . .?

it’s exam time!

1 Dear friends, do not believe everyone who claims to speak by the Spirit.  You must test them to see if the spirit they have comes from God.  For there are many false prophets in the world. 2 This is how we know if they have the Spirit of God:  If a person claiming to be a prophet acknowledges that Jesus Christ came in a real body, that person has the Spirit of God. 3 But if someone claims to be a prophet and does not acknowledge the truth about Jesus, that person is not from God.  Such a person has the spirit of the Antichrist, which you heard is coming into the world and indeed is already here.

1 John chapter 4, verses 1 thru 3; from the New Living Translation

The days of business as usual for what is commonly called “the church” are over.  Truth of the matter is, those days have been gone a long, long, time.  But People Still Are Trying To Operate The Mission And Ministry Of Jesus As “Business As Usual”.  Some may not be happy with me that I am bring this up.  But I would rather they be unhappy with me because I’ve brought this up—than for God to be unhappy with me for NOT bringing it up.

There is a game that has been and is being played by a lot of folks.  It’s called Kick The Can Down The Road.”  Some have been intentionally playing the game, and even more have been playing it because they haven’t been told the truth—or have simply ignored the truth.  And here’s the 2 things we need to know right now about that can: 

  1. The Can That’s Been Kicked Down The Road Has Been Disintegrated By All That Kicking It Down The Road.  Piece by piece, atom by atom, the can doesn’t exist anymore.  Ever noticed how a can will eventually cease to exist?  Either by wear and tear or rust?
  2. Even If There Was Any Can Left To Kick Down The Road, There’s No More Road Left To Kick It Down.  All roads end somewhere.  And this road has reached that end!

We did not reach this moment overnight.  It didn’t happen because of the past few months, years, or even decades.  It’s been generational.  We can also say that it’s been happening ever since The Koinonia came to life.  But now it seems to me that it has intensified.  Maybe it’s because it’s happening in my time.  But for generations now we have neglected John’s Most Important Words For The Future Of The Koinonia:

You Must Test Them To See If The Spirit They Have Comes From God.

False teachings have been a part of what you might call “the church” and what I love to call “The Koinonia” ever since its inception.  Satan is at the root of it all because he knows that The Koinonia is all that is standing between him and the people in the world.  And now for generations, he’s been having a party—at the expensive of human lives.

This Season Of Discernment May Well Be Your Last Opportunity To Discern What Is Being Promoted And Taught.  And to discern exactly what you are going to do!  You have to “test the spirit” of those who want to lead you in a different direction from where you started.

It’s interesting that in writing his letter, John chose the Greek word “dokimazō (dah-key-mah-zo)” that’s translated “test” or “try”.  It means:  To Test, Examine, Prove, Scrutinize (To See Whether A Thing Is Genuine Or Not), As Metals.”  If someone offers to sell you some gold jewelry, are you going to buy it just because it’s color is gold?  I don’t think so.  If you would, then see me tomorrow after the Dollar Tree opens, and I will be glad to sell you some gold jewelry.

The only accurate way to test a teachingis to compare it to The Bible.  And all of the Bible.  For hundreds and hundreds of years, people have misused and misapplied the verses of the Bible to support their own positions.  I’m talking about using the whole Bible. 

Those in our Tribal Leadership are promoting ideas and a life that contradictions thousands of years of the teachings in the Bible.  They are leading a movement that in essence—and at its core—is saying that God has been waiting for a long time for some people to finally get the Bible right.

Now, if you’re OK with that kind of leadership—or if you believe that leadership—then there’s no need to discern anything.  However—I said However!!!—if you think and believe that God’s Word is true and reliable, then you must discern whether you can follow God and align yourselves with their leadership. From the very beginning—I’ve been very clear.  This Is YOUR Decision About The Future Of This Place.  It’s not about me.  It’s not about the decision Debbie and I have already made. 

It’s About DiscerningTestingTryingThe Teachings Of Your Leadership To See If It’s Really Of God Or NotAnd If You Can Live Under That Kind Of Leadership. I can say so much more—but this morning is the time for you to seek, ask, and yes, especially pray.  And I want to leave you with some words from Paul.  This is why it’s necessary that NOW you determine which way you will go—Because The Way You Go, Determines The Future That Awaits You.

6 I am shocked that you are turning away so soon from God, who called you to himself through the loving mercy of Christ.  You are following a different way that pretends to be the Good News 7 but is not the Good News at all.  You are being fooled by those who deliberately twist the truth concerning Christ. 8 Let God’s curse fall on anyone, including us or even an angel from heaven, who preaches a different kind of Good News than the one we preached to you. 9 I say again what we have said before:  If anyone preaches any other Good News than the one you welcomed, let that person be cursed.

Galatians chapter 1, verses 6 thru 9; from the NLT

WOULD YOU LIKE A HEAPING HELPING OF KARMA TO GO WITH THAT?

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 52-56; from the New Living Translation

Can we be honest? Don’t we just love it when Karma jumps up and bites someone in the butt? Maybe it’s that person at work who used you to get that promotion. Maybe it’s that person who spread malicious gossip about you. Maybe it’s that car that had zoomed by you at break-neck speed that down the road was pulled over by a State Trooper. Whenever we feel like someone has wronged us, or is simply in the wrong, what is our response? Kindness or Karma?

As Jesus was determined to go to Jerusalem, today’s passage tells us of an event where His disciples had that very same choice: Kindness Or Karma? James and John (you know–John the Apostle of “Love”) opted in for Karma! “Lord, should we call down fire from heaven to burn them up?” This will teach those bigoted Samaritans! But read it again, paying attention to the response of Jesus to the brothers: “But Jesus turned and rebuked them.” Not the Samaritan villagers–but James and John! And after the rebuke, what does Jesus do? “So they went on to another village.”

In the seasons where you feel you have been misunderstood or mistreated; when you feel the “burning” desire for Karma to pounce on someone like a Lion on a crippled Gazelle–Jesus has something to say to you. It’s called A Rebuke! And to my fellow Tribal Members of the United Methodist Church, in light of this passage–do you really think all the words, words about Karma, we are passing from one side to the other (because both sides are doing this) pleases Jesus? One side talks about the love of Jesus and the other side talks about the need for repentence. All the while, words and wishes of Karma are also flowing way too freely. Folks, let’s stop all this talk about Karma–even though you may not use that word, you are definitely wanting it. Let’s do something together that reflects the heart and attitude of Jesus shown in today’s passage. Let’s be Kind and allow each side to go to the next village.

DEAR BISHOP GARY MUELLER; an open letter

Dear Bishop Mueller and fellow servant in Christ,

I am writing to you even though the reality of you reading this is very slim. Yet, I remain hopeful you will. The call we share in Christ now compels me to speak to you about recent events in Jonesboro. To be more specific, it is the article from Arkansas Democrat Gazette by Frank E. Lockwood, dated August 2, 2022. This would have been 2 days after Jonesboro First United Methodist Church, following your Conference’s guidelines, voted to disaffiliate from your Conference and the United Methodist Church.

In your interview with Mr. Lockwood you referred to, and I quote, “I am concerned that traditional Christian orthodox thought is beginning to resemble white Christian nationalism“. To your credit, you did not directly call Jonesboro First United Methodist Church white Christian nationalists. However, sir, I kindly refer you to Leroy Jethro Gibbs Rule #39–“There is no such thing as coincidence.” The fact you made this comment the day after that congregation faithfully followed the Discipline and Conference Procedures, cannot be considered coincidence. Thus, this letter, #BishopMueller.

At the risk of sounding exactly like the fictional character, Gomer Pyle, “For Shame! For Shame! For Shame!” Now, in all fairness, I don’t know anyone from Jonesboro First United Methodist Church. Therefore, it is reasonable to expect that I could learn something about them from you, Sir. Perhaps they are attempting to create and push the agenda of, in your own words, white Christian nationalism“. Yet, when I looked at the photograph of the sanctuary, it’s reasonable to expect to see skin-heads, white robes, even swastikas. I saw none of these.

#BishopMueller, you have done a terrible thing, sir. Why is it so difficult for you to allow any congregation follow in the direction that God is leading them? You speak about a “big tent” for a variety of positions in the United Methodist Church–but you belittle and demean people by “coincidentally” talking about “white Christian nationalism” who have tried to find a place under your “big tent”. May I graciously remind you of what James wrote in chapter 3, verses 10-12 (NRSVUE)? “From the same mouth comes a blessing and a curse. My brothers and sisters, this ought not to be so. Does a spring pour forth from the same opening both fresh and brackish water? Can a fig tree, my brothers and sisters, yield olives or a grapevine figs? No more can salt water yield fresh.

#BishopMueller, you have furthermore cast a dispersion on our Book of Discipline. Since you did not deem their meeting to be in violation of our Disciple, then they were not in violation of our Discipline. However, there are many of your colleagues who are in open violation of that same Discipline. Yet you have not, to my knowledge, cast any vituperations against them. Is it because that the Jonesboro First United Methodist Church situation is different? To call out one for following the Discipline and your Conference procedures and not another is shameful duplicity on your part, Sir.

#BishopMueller, even if your use of that term “white Christian nationalism” was not directed at those who voted to disaffiliate, your timing in using that term was, how can I say this in a way that helps you understand your error? Sir, it sucked! Forgive my bluntness sir, but you owe Jonesboro First United Methodist Church, and all United Methodist congregations a sincere “without excuse” apology. And even though Leroy Jethro Gibbs Rule #6 states “Never say you’re sorry. It’s a sign of weakness.”, he added Rule #51: Sometimes you are wrong.

And in the future, may you be treated with kindness and grace. And though I am aware many will say my words to you were unkind, yet they are full of grace. When we are in the wrong, words are unkind; for none of us like to be reminded we made a mistake. But even words of correction can be filled with grace. #BishopMueller, I assure you that my words are filled with grace because that’s what followers of Jesus do. I remain, as always,

A servant of the Lord, Jesus,
Randy Burbank

Wanting One Thing, But Doing Another

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.

Are You Ready To Be Amazed?

Even as Peter was saying these things, the Holy Spirit fell upon all who were listening to the message. The Jewish believers who came with Peter were amazed that the gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out on the Gentiles, too. 

Acts chapter 10, verse 44 and 45, from the New Living Translation; emaphasis mine

Tell me, are you going through some difficult “hard to see any kind of favorable future” times? Are you ready to “throw in the towel”, “raise the white flag of surrender”, “knucle under”, “concede defeat”, or “give up the struggle”? At the risk of sounding like a late-night infomercial hawker, I say now unto thee: “ARE YOU READY TO BE AMAZED?”

Last night I was doing my Tuesday Night Facebook Live Bible Study. We were in Acts chapter 10 and the story of what is appropriately called The Gentile Pentecost! God gave a vision to this Gentile named Cornelius to call for Peter to come to his home. Then God gave Peter a peculiar dream about sheets and a variety of critters. Cornelius responded immediate to God’s vision. Peter, on the other hand, was trying to figure out the meaning of his dream. And God interupted Peter’s “trying to figure it all out” moment when Cornelius’s entourage knocked at the door with an invitation to come to his home–and mind you–it was the home of a “Gentile”! That was a place where no self-respecting Jew would ever go! But Peter went, and he brought along his own entourage.

After they arrived at this “Gentile-Unholy-God Awful” home, Peter shared the Good News of Jesus and The Kingdom Of God. And before Peter could even finish his sermon, the Holy Spirit came upon and within those “Gentiles”! And that infilling resulted in the very same thing that had happened earlier in Jerusalem during the Feast Of Passover. And the Jewish believers were “amazed”, “astonished” that it was happening to these “unclean” Gentiles. And get this: They weren’t even converted Jews–they were still Gentiles!

I looked up the Greek word translated amazed or astonished. Among it’s many meanings is this: “to throw out of position, displace”. In other words, they were not expecting such a display of God’s power in the place they were at. Maybe you’ve sung the song Amazing Grace. But tell me–be honest with yourself–“When was the last time you were amazed, astonished, thrown out of place by the display of God’s Grace and Power?” The synonym that should be used (but seems to be rarely used) is AWESTRUCK!

So, when you are stuck between the proverbial “rock and a hard place”, don’t you dare hand over to our Enemy your hopes and dreams! Even when the obstacles seem to be unsurmountable. Grace is truly amazing when we allow God to be in control of ‘dispensing’ it, even in unlikely places! And to my Tribal Members who are facing a difficult time trying to disaffiliate from the United Methodist Institution (see, I can’t even bring myself to call it a church anymore!) don’t you dare “Say Uncle” and give up on God’s Vision to bring into our messes, another Great Awakening! Allow yourself to be displaced from what seems to be an unfavorable outcome and get ready to be Amazed!

Amazing grace, how sweet the sound!

The Lost Art Of Disagreeing

39 Their disagreement was so sharp that they separated. Barnabas took John Mark with him and sailed for Cyprus. 40 Paul chose Silas, and as he left, the believers entrusted him to the Lord’s gracious care. 

Acts chapter 15, verses 39 and 40, from the New Living Translation

The book, The Art of War, written by Sun Tzu, was written over two millenia ago, but it is still read and studied. And it shows! But there has been an art that appears to have been both lost and forgotten. It’s The Art Of Disagreeing. And this shows as well. How should we handle those moments when Disagreement happens? Well, there’s something about this in The Bible, and in particular, the book we call Acts. Paul and Barnabas had a shared history. Here is is in a nutshell:

  1. Barnabas gets the apostles to accept that Paul had indeed been converted and was accepted by the apostles. (Acts chapter 9)
  2. Barnabas enlists Paul to help to teach the new followers in Antioch. (Acts chapter 11)
  3. God calls Barnabas and Paul to share the Good News in other places, and the church there blessed and sent them. (Acts chapter 13; note how they were identified at first: Barnabas and Saul/Paul, indicating that Barnabas is the team leader)
  4. It is Paul and Barnabas who go back to Jerusalem to settle the issue about circumcision. (Acts chapter 14)
  5. It is Paul and Barnabas who agree to return to all the places they had been to check up on the followers there. (Acts chapter 14)

And it is at this point when a Disagreement erupts between the two. Not just any ol’ Disagreement, but a SHARP Disagreement! It was so Sharp that this team that had worked so well together, went separate ways. Can’t speak for you, but I would say this was a seriously big Disagreement. Ever had that kind of Disagreement with someone or a group? Maybe it was with your best friend–and you became fiends instead of friends. Perhaps it happened in your family. Maybe in a club or group you were in; perhaps at work; perhaps at church. Wherever it happened, the results are very similar. Harsh words were spoken. Suspicion went wild.

And then the rest of the world heard all about how the friend became the fiend. But what if we simply followed the example of Barnabas and Paul? What if we went our separate ways without talking maliciously about the other? What if we focused on our daily walk with Jesus instead of the Disagreement? Does being angry and bitter contribute anything positive? Remaining focused on the Disagreement serves only to keep the wound open and festering. And who knows? If we simply allow the other to go one way and you another, eventually you might become friends again. But even if that doesn’t happen, at least you will be free of the anger and bitterness.

And now to my United Methodist Tribe; the time has come for our Barnabas and Paul moment. Our Sharp Disagreement isn’t doing either side any good. And this Sharp Disagreement is doing great harm to the work of The Kingdom of God. Allow the other side to go in peace and with grace. Then focus on what God is wanting from you and what He has for you to do. Tell you what, whether your Disagreement is with another person or with the UMC–let’s have a good ol’ fashion funeral. Bury that Disagreement and let’s move on. I leave you this morning with some sound advice from an old Pharisee by the name of Gamaliel. It came after a Disagreement between the Sanhedrin and some followers of Jesus:

“So my advice is, leave these men alone. Let them go. If they are planning and doing these things merely on their own, it will soon be overthrown. But if it is from God, you will not be able to overthrow them. You may even find yourselves fighting against God!”

Acts chapter 5, verses 38 and 39, from the New Living Translation

Not Exactly What I Had Planned

We can make our plans,
but the Lord determines our steps.

Proverbs chapter 16 verse 9, from The New Living Translation

Lately I’ve been sharing about changes and hopefully some thoughts that will help others facing changes in their life. This morning, yours truly, is about to face some significant changes. And this is not exactly what I had planned. You see, I had planned to go on serving as pastor and preacher until I was about 68 years old. By the way, I’m 66 right now. Then I would find a nice little place to “retire”. After all, 50 years of doing this would surely be more than enough. Right? Haven’t I earned my peace and quiet by then? I had planned to preach for those who were on vacation or who were sick. But pastoring wasn’t in my plans. So God had a really big belly laugh. So what changed?

Last night the second of the 2 churches I served unanimously voted to begin the disaffiliation process from their Annual Conference. Both congregations had decided to explore a new future for them. This leaves me with my own options:

  1. Stay a United Methodist pastor, but later this year be moved to “somewhere” because the Annual Conference would not allow me to stay at a non-United Methodist congregation.
  2. Surrender my UMC credentials–but what happens to my pension fund?
  3. Retire earlier than I had planned and seek that illusive “peace and quiet”, and leave these precious congregations without a pastor.
  4. Retire from the UMC but then seek a new way to serve God in a new Tribe.

So you can clearly see, none of these are exactly what I had planned. Ever had your plans disrupted? More than disrupted, perhaps your plans (like mine) have EXPLODED, and there’s debris lying everywhere. What does one do in this situation???? We do the Proverbs chapter 16 verse 9 thing. We look to God for Exactly What He Has Planned For Us! This is true not only for cumbling Tribes/Denominations; but in every aspect of our lives. Every step of my now different plan is carefully designed by God. So much for peace and quiet! Instead I have been offered the opportunity for peace and hope! Father/Daddy, you can quit laughing now at my plans. I am an older version of young Samuel: “Speak, Lord, your servant is listening!”

We plan the way we want to live,
but only God makes us able to live it.

Proverbs chapter 16 verse 9, from The Message