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

ALL IN! OR ARE WE ALL IN?

“Listen, O Israel! The Lord is our God, the Lord alone. And you must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your strength. And you must commit yourselves wholeheartedly to these commands that I am giving you today. Repeat them again and again to your children. Talk about them when you are at home and when you are on the road, when you are going to bed and when you are getting up. 

Deuteronomy chapter 6, verses 4 through 7, from the New Living Translation

All means all, doesn’t it? At least that’s the way I think; and it’s very apparent that God feels the same way. In this season where the Orthodox faith has been thrown away like last week’s leftovers, this is even more true. Within many churches here in the good old U.S. of A., they are demoting their churches to a way that looks more like the culture, rather than the Kingdom of God. How can they expect to see God’s Kingdom here when they look, think, and act like the kingdoms of this world? They say it’s because they love God and love others. But then there’s this word ALL!

In the world of Poker there’s a phrase and an act called “All-In”! The player thinks and believes that their hand is better than all the other hands, so they put everything they have on the table; nothing is held back. Not one single chip is held back. Now that’s what you would call “high-risk” living! Without sounding blasphemous or irreligious, that’s what it means to love God and to live in His Kingdom. We don’t obey God in order to love Him. We love God and thus we obey Him. So we put everything on the line–with nothing held back.

Progressives think that we can love God and love our culture. And because they love God, that changes what is wrong and what is right. Love transforms the mess into perfection. By choosing to form their values around pop culture rather than The Bible, they cannot and have not loved God with their All! One of the places Moses reminds us to love God is with All of our “soul”. But one of the meanings of that Hebrew word translated “soul” is “appetite”! When one’s appetite is being fed by feelings and yes, even lies, then they are not loving God with their All!

And even many Orthodox folks who claim to love God with their All have another appetite. It’s for the property, buildings, and bank accounts. They are looking for a way out and at the same time wanting to keep those said assests. Now, I want to talk to my sister and brother Orthodox family. Is your church property and assests absolutely essential in order to break free of this hot-mess culture and get in on what God is doing? Are you afraid to leave the UMC because you are afraid of losing a building and checking account to your Annual Conference? If so, then you are NOT loving God with your ALL!

Does God really need our buildings in order to bring people into His Kingdom? Sure, many of us have an emotional attachment to that place. But if that emotional attachment is keeping us from stepping out of this hot-mess and stepping into what God is doing, then obviously our appetite isn’t All-In for God. What I am about to suggest that we need to do is indeed frightening and daunting. But it is also exhilerating, if you think about it. We are being led by the Holy Spirit to step out of the old and into something new; IF our appetite is All-In for God!

If we lose our assests of property and banks accounts, what’s left? I’ll tell you what’s left! What’s left is the God who delivered the Hebrews out of slavery. What’s left is the God who answered Elijah’s prayer with fire! What’s left is the words of the angel to the women: “Why are you seeking the living among the dead? He’s not here! He’s going ahead of you, waiting for you!” What’s left is Peter’s message at that Feast of Pentecost: “This is what the prophet Joel was talking about! The Holy Spirit is here! He’s giving dreams to young and old. He’s giving His message to men and women!” If we should lose everything we associate with our local church to an Annual Conference (meaning property and money), folks, we still have The Kingdom of God and the Presence of The Holy Spirit within us! And to be a part of another Great Awakening, isn’t that more than enough? Don’t allow your “love” for emotional attachments, get in the way of loving God with your All! If we love God with our All, then He is going to provide for us what we need! Trust Him because He’s proven that He is ALWAYS Trustworthy. Get rid of that anxiousness and embrace God with your All!

SPIRITUAL EUNUCHS

1 You should know this, Timothy, that in the last days there will be very difficult times. For people will love only themselves and their money. They will be boastful and proud, scoffing at God, disobedient to their parents, and ungrateful. They will consider nothing sacred. They will be unloving and unforgiving; they will slander others and have no self-control. They will be cruel and hate what is good. They will betray their friends, be reckless, be puffed up with pride, and love pleasure rather than God. They will act religious, but they will reject the power that could make them godly. Stay away from people like that!

2 Timothy chapter 3, verses 1 through 5, from the New Living Translation

Just the other day I was reading what a fellow clergy from my Tribe was writing about some things written by John Wesley. He took a snipet here and there, and concluded that the word “eunuch” really mean effiminate–not someone who had been castrated. Another one of his conclusions was that Wesley would have accepted homosexuals as “ministers of the Gospel”. In other words, homosexuality isn’t actually a sin. And this is not an isolated view unfortunately. Claiming to be inspired by The Holy Spirit, 2,000 years of Orthodox teaching about God’s designed Sexual Ethic, as well as the Old Testament, has been flawed.

And now, our Tribal Leadership is declaring that they are being inspired by The Holy Spirit to lead the rest of us down a path that was described by Paul in his last letter to Timothy. The result for our Tribe, and other Tribes as well, is an institution that has denied the true work of The Holy Spirit. Now, I don’t doubt their sincerity; but since when has sincerity been exclusively tied to The Truth? They have a “spirit” leading them, for sure. But it’s not the Holy Spirit! Why say this? Because The Holy Spirit will never lead us to something that is outside the boundaries of The Bible. The Bible is the Boundary Lines for us in all matters of faith and conduct. Some are denying this to be true; but they are wrong!

The prophet Jeremiah wrote in Jeremiah chapter 17, verse 9: “The human heart is the most deceitful of all things, and desperately wicked. Who really knows how bad it is?” This is exactly why we need The Bible. Notice the words Jeremiah used: most deceitful and desperately wicked. Without The Holy Spirit we are powerless to change this! AND without The Bible as The Truth, the result is spiritual eunuchs. They are incapable of reproducing Followers Of Jesus, just as a literal eunuch doesn’t have the balls to reproduce another human being. We can be led by The Holy Spirit or we can be led by spiritual eunuchs. The choice is ours. One will lead us into a spiritual awakening that hasn’t been seen in a very long time. The other will lead us into–NOTHING! I close today’s musings with one of John Wesley’s thoughts–thoughts that are truly prophetic within the United Methodist Church leadership:

“I am not afraid that the people called Methodists should ever cease to exist either in Europe or America. But I am afraid, lest they should only exist as a dead sect, having the form of religion without the power.”

John Wesley, August 4, 1786

THE TIMES, THEY BE A CHANGIN’!

The picture is our last Thanksgiving with Dad, November 25, 2021

Life is full of changes; it just the nature of life. We can embrace them or fight them; accept them or resist them. Yet, change still happens. Yesterday was another reminder of how life changes. Yesterday I went back to Dad’s home to pick up some of the things he and Mother left me. To my new readers, allow me to give you the backdrop to my painful activities yesterday. My Mother died May 23, 2018; and my Dad died this year; January 14 to be exact. Debbie and I were with him, at his side when he slipped from the bonds of this life and into eternity. And I still miss him. I still catch myself reaching for the phone to call him.

And as I entered that house, it all came back to me–how much I still grieve. But this is another of the many examples of how life changes. Our Expedition (extended length) and my utility trailer were full. More than items, there are memories and stories that go each one. Such as that bedroom suite; my Mother’s parents bought it when they were young. In fact, it was one of the first “store bought” bedroom suites in their little community. People came over just to see and admire it. Then there is Dad’s table saw. He used it to make everything from little projects to shelves to baby craddles. I credit these memories (and perhaps my grief) for awakening me at 1:12 a.m. and not allowing me to go back to sleep.

And I am not alone. Perhaps there have been some changes in your life. They may be fresh, a few months old, years old, or even decades old. But the memories of those changes are still a part of who you are. And this “change” can, and often does, fill us with grief, anger, fear, and uncertainty. And in the darkness of this morning, the Holy Spirit gave me this passage–and I want to give it to you who are experiencing “changes”

When you go through deep waters,
    I will be with you.
When you go through rivers of difficulty,
    you will not drown.
When you walk through the fire of oppression,
    you will not be burned up;
    the flames will not consume you.
For I am the Lord, your God,
    the Holy One of Israel, your Savior.

Isaiah chapter 43, verses 2 and 3; from the New Living Translation

And for my United Methodist friends, sisters, and brothers in Christ, we are facing changes. Like my memories of the items I brought to my home yesterday, you have memories in the United Methodist Church. Many of them are great and wonderful. And you may even long for things to be the way they used to be; but change in happening! And like any change, it is unsettling, perhaps making you fearful–or even angry. We may not even want things to change. You could even deny that change is happening. But “not wanting” and “denying” will not stop it. It feels like deep waters, raging rivers, even a fiery furnace. So, how can you and I approach AND deal with these changes? The best way is to remember these words of Isaiah. His “Tribe” was facing serious and what could be devastating changes. Be the prophet reminded them–and because we have The Bible–he reminds us.

  • He will be with us in the changes
  • He will not let us drown
  • He will not let us be consumed
  • He is with us and will stay with us until we see His glory

God is with us taking step for step with each of us along these changes. So, my friends, be strong and courageous. Don’t give up and don’t lose hope! God has His Best in mind for us; and it will bring Him the Glory! And whatever else changes, this will never change!

JUMPING TO CONCLUSIONS!

52 He sent messengers ahead to a Samaritan village to prepare for his arrival. 53 But the people of the village did not welcome Jesus because he was on his way to Jerusalem. 54 When James and John saw this, they said to Jesus, “Lord, should we call down fire from heaven to burn them up?” 55 But Jesus turned and rebuked them. 56 So they went on to another village.

Luke chapter 9, verses 52 through 56, The New Living Translation

Because I’ve read much of Andy Andrew’s writings, I have become a “Noticer”. Some things I’ve noticed have made me laugh, some helped me grow deeper in Jesus, and some caused me stand in awe of God’s ways. And other things have made me sad; really sad. For example, my Tribal situation. One thing I’ve noticed is how people jump to conclusions! Jumping to conclusions seems to be the only exercise some people get! Jumping to conclusions like jumping on a trampoline. You go up and then you come down in the same general vicinity. And when you don’t land in the same general vicinity, well, you get hurt, and hurt real bad!

Case in point: the response of James and John when that Samaritan village rejected Jesus. They jumped to the conclusion that this village needed to become a crispy critter–another Sodom and Gomorrah. And did you notice how Jesus responded to their jumped conclusion? In case you didn’t, here is how Jesus responded: But Jesus turned and rebuked them.” I’ve been “rebuked” by my parents when I was young, and let me tell you, the look on their face let me know with absolute certainty that I had done or said something wrong! Can you imagine the look on the face of Jesus and how they felt? Try to imagine that “look”! And how does this relate to our Tribal Hot Mess? Glad you asked!

Progressives have jumped to the conclusion that we are abandoning the Wesleyan Movement; that we aren’t acting out of love; that all we care about is our property and money; that the Global Methodist Church will throw out women pastors; and that we will whither up and just die. This is what I’ve noticed in their words. But some of you conservatives have also jumped to some conclusions. Some have jumped to the conclusion that all progressives and centrists are demons sent to destroy the Wesleyan Movement; that all bishops are living in disobedience; that everthing will be rosy when we get out of the United Methodist Church; that we just need to get out because anywhere is better than where we are at now. Aha! But is anywhere really better than where we are right now as a Tribe?

The place our hearts and minds need to be right now is in the process of Discernment, NOT jumping to conclusions! Discernment isn’t always neat and easy. If it were then we wouldn’t be in this Hot Mess. It takes time, effort, and energy on our part–and a lot of it. Rather than jumping, we need to be praying–praying harder than we ever have before. As I stated earlier, I am leading both of the congregations I serve to pray first before making any decision. Hopefully they will decide not to jump, but to follow The Holy Spirit. Friends, this jumping to conclusions is only adding smoke and fire to this Hot Mess. James and John never asked Jesus, “Well, what should we do now?” No! They were hoping to see fire come down and destroy those vile and evil Samaritans! Without jumping to conclusions about the future of the Wesleyan Movement, and every movement of the Holy Spirit whichever Tribe you are in, this is the season to ask Jesus–“What do we do now?”

WHERE’S THE CONNECTION?

Connections are important; very important! For example, if one is building a house it needs electricity, right? What if the electrician only ran the wire to the junction boxes but never connect the plugs and switches to the wire? Or, considering our current drought here, what if we ran some garden hoses to water the yard, flowers, or garden but never connected those hoses to a water faucet?

Connections are also essential for what today is being called “The Church”. Interestingly, in the beginning followers of Jesus weren’t called “The Church”; it was The Koinonia! It’s a Greek word that means a life that is shared together with commitment to each other and to our Lord, Jesus Christ! Connection is also an important word to us of the Wesleyan Family. But. . .what is it that needs to connect us? Alas, the answer to this question is what has broken my beloved Tribe and created this current hot mess in The United Methodist Church.

For our more progressive sisters and brothers, our connection is that God loves everyone. Sounds innocuous enough. How would we, or anyone, have hope without that unconditional Agape Love? But for our progressive sisters and brothers, this Agape Love means that if someone feels they need to live outside God’s Sexual Ethic (man/husband and woman/wife), then that’s perfectly OK. This belief and conviction they hold is framed around an unproven concept–that God created some of us to be gay, binary, or some other gender that our plumbing contradicts. Progressives want us who are convinced that The Koinonia is framed around The Truth of God’s Word (found in the Bible) to ignore The Truth and embrace this “new” understanding of human nature.

So, for the progressives, this situation and moment is framed around the LBGTQI community. But is it really? As I guide the two congregations I serve through this season of discernment, I am very clear to these congregations that our discussions are not to be about the LBGTQI community. And I refuse to be “in charge” of this season. I am not leading them to stay or to leave. Their decision isn’t about me, it’s all about the vision, ministry, and mission of these congregations; about where they can live faithfully to the God who has saved us and is calling us in His Mission!

So, what will we frame our future around? Progressives believe our connection is love. Us Orthodox folks believe our connectionion is The Truth. Consider what Paul told the Corinthian Koinonia as we frame our future:

14 Do not be unequally yoked with unbelievers [do not make mismated alliances with them or come under a different yoke with them, inconsistent with your faith]. For what partnership have right living and right standing with God with iniquity and lawlessness? Or how can light have fellowship with darkness? 15 What harmony can there be between Christ and Belial [the devil]? Or what has a believer in common with an unbeliever?

2 Corinthians chapter 6, verses 14 and 15 from the Amplified Bible, Classic Edition

Now, Progressives will quickly say, “Hey! I’m a believer, too! You’ve taken Paul completely out of context. That doesn’t fit our situation!” But have I? Framing a connection outside of The Truth is like framing a house without nails or screws. It simply cannot stand. Read again the latter part of verse 14: For what partnership have right living and right standing with God with iniquity and lawlessness? Or how can light have fellowship with darkness?” Light and darkness do not, can not have a connection. It’s either one or the other.

My friends in the United Methodist Church–this is our moment to frame our future. What I am about to write will get me kicked out of the circle of fundamentalists–but I’m saying it anyway! I am strongly opposed to any discrimination against LBGTQI persons in the secular places. They should not be discriminated in the workplace–nor in their Constitutional Rights. If they want to be “legally” married, I will defend their right to do so. But I will not perform the ceremony. Besides, in Alabama all one needs is a notary public to sign and to put their seal on a document; if your state laws do not allow this, then all a person has to do is get online, fill out a form, and become qualified. You see, I’m this weirdo who doesn’t mix up or confuse my patriotism to my Walk with Jesus.

And while this should be allowed (not to be discriminated against) in our legal system, it does not mean that it should be OK in The Koinonia! Trying to frame our Connection around accepting any sexuality outside of The Biblical Ethic, just doesn’t work. It hasn’t ever worked. Nor will it ever work! So, if you want a better future, make sure your frame that future around the Unchanging Truth Of God’s Word. You see, there is NO Connection between right living and wrong living.

what was your first love?

14 Write to Laodicea, to the Angel of the church. God’s Yes, the Faithful and Accurate Witness, the First of God’s creation, says: 15-17 “I know you inside and out, and find little to my liking. You’re not cold, you’re not hot—far better to be either cold or hot! You’re stale. You’re stagnant. You make me want to vomit. You brag, ‘I’m rich, I’ve got it made, I need nothing from anyone,’ oblivious that in fact you’re a pitiful, blind beggar, threadbare and homeless. 18 “Here’s what I want you to do: Buy your gold from me, gold that’s been through the refiner’s fire. Then you’ll be rich. Buy your clothes from me, clothes designed in Heaven. You’ve gone around half-naked long enough. And buy medicine for your eyes from me so you can see, really see. 19 “The people I love, I call to account—prod and correct and guide so that they’ll live at their best. Up on your feet, then! About face! Run after God!

Revelation chapter 3, verses 14 through 19 from The Message

At my previous appointment I lead a small group on the topic of sexuality; particularly in how we need to relate to the Gay community. It was built around a book that I highly recommend for your reading: Messy Grace by Caleb Kaltenbach. The next day, one of the members of this group asked me a question: What is the worst sin? She then followed up her question with her own answer: It would have to be rejecting Jesus. Sounds like a good answer, right?

But I had another one of those “Holy Spirit” moments where He put His hand over my mouth and chose to speak instead of me: That’s bad, for sure. But the answer is the sin that makes God want to puke: Lukewarmness! Jesus weeps over sinners who reject Him. But folks and churches that are lukewarm make Him puke! Picture this in your mind: Jesus kneeling before that heavenly commode and violently puking! That doesn’t fit all those Renaissance pictures hanging on church walls. And Zophran won’t stop the puking.

The remedy is simple: Do what Jesus told the Church at Laodicea–RETURN TO YOUR FIRST LOVE! That first love was Jesus–and loving only the things that Jesus loves. But along their journey they started loving other things, too. And they thought they were OK with God because they still loved Jesus–it’s just they loved other things, too. The consequence of that kind of thinking resulted in a Lukewarm Makes Me Want To Puke kind of love for Jesus. Laodicea wasn’t the only church that had that problem. We see it today.

Progressives say they love Jesus–but they also love their gender and sexual desires. And it’s not just progressives. Even the Orthodox have shown they love Jesus–but they also love other things. They love their pristine sanctuaries. They love their programs. And they love their buildings and bank accounts–because they are more worried about losing their buildings and bank accounts if they disaffiliate with their Annual Conference than loving Jesus first and foremost!

Friends, we are at the edge of another Great Awakening! If we are going to experience it and be a part of another great Movement Of The Holy Spirit, then we need to go back to our First Love–Jesus and the things He loves. Saturday I posted about this. (click here for the post) Folks, we are at our own October 31, 1517 moment. That was when Martin Luther posted his 95 Theses! And the world change; my, oh my, how it changed–for the better. Do you want to see our culture be transformed? Then return to your first love–and leave all those others loves in the dust. If you can’t be the gender you feel like–that’s no real loss; if you lose your real estate to the Annual Conference–that’s no real loss–when compared to the Glory that awaits us now and in eternity when Jesus is our First–and ONLY–Love!

Up on your feet, then! About face! Run after God!

SHOULD I STAY OR SHOULD I GO?

35 The following day John was again standing with two of his disciples. 36 As Jesus walked by, John looked at him and declared, “Look! There is the Lamb of God!” 37 When John’s two disciples heard this, they followed Jesus. 38 Jesus looked around and saw them following. “What do you want?” he asked them. They replied, “Rabbi” (which means “Teacher”), “where are you staying?” 39 “Come and see,” he said. It was about four o’clock in the afternoon when they went with him to the place where he was staying, and they remained with him the rest of the day.

John chapter 1 verses 35 through 39 from the New Living Translation

After a week of painfully describing the contention which exists within my beloved Tribe, the United Methodist Church, it behooves–nay, it COMPELS me to explore the options before us. Thus, the song, “Should I Stay Or Should I Go”! The “word” being thrown around is DISAFFILIATION. I thought it was a suitable word until I looked up the synonyms for it:

Even though many in leadership positions, (as well as many in the pew because leadership means influence), have broken away from the core beliefs, vision, and dream of John Wesley, we who are being called by God to return to those roots are being accused of creating schism and are the splinter group. The rift occurred and rupture happened a long time ago; it was fueled by the silence of the majority who sat in silence, or simply chose to complain about it, as the foundation began to crumble.

So, we who are being called to return to our first love must live with that inaccurate term: Disaffiliation. We are leaving our beloved Tribe–but I must ask the question: Leaving to what??????? If your choice is to simply leave one Tribe for another Tribe, to jump ship as it were, then maybe–just maybe–you are jumping off the Titanic onto the Britannic. Ever heard of the Britannic? It was the Titanic’s sister ship. Know what? It sank, too; and in less time than the Titanic.

Now hold on there, partner. I am NOT saying that the Global Methodist Church, Free Methodist Church, Independent Methodist Church, Nazarene Church, Wesleyan Church, or any other Wesleyan group that has left the “Methodist” church is the Britannic. What I AM saying is that simply leaving the United Methodist Church for another group ISN’T the solution. Friends, we are in a rare and unique moment in time; much like October 31, 1517 when Martin Luther posted his 95 Theses on the door of the Castle Church in Wittenberg, Germany.

Our choice, your choice and mine, must not be built around DISAFFILIATION–rather is must be built around AFFILIATION! The burning question for every United Methodist and United Methodist Congregation must be this: What is it that God is wanting me/us to do? It must be about rekindling the fire that John Wesley, Charles Wesley, and so many others experienced that propelled them out into their world with The Good News Of The Kingdom Of God. Friends, this moment is all about the Dream and Vision of God. It’s about how can we show our world the Risen Lord in ways that they can see and want to experience for themselves. This is our moment to decide what is our true purpose and what should our mission be in this messed up world.

The issue isn’t like that classic Rock-N-Roll song “Should I Stay Or Should I Go”! Nay, my friends. This is our moment to step out of the story about a church and step into the epic saga of The Good News Of The Kingdom Of God! It’s not about how much money will it cost us to leave. The cost of this moment isn’t defined in dollars. It’s defined by human lives going into eternity without Jesus. If we believe our buildings are too important to be given to an Annual Conference, then we’ve missed the boat.

Go back to the first paragraph, the passage when Jesus notices two men trailing behind Him. Jesus asked them (and He is asking us right now!), What do you want? But don’t overlook their answer to Jesus. Rabbi, where are you staying? Their question wasn’t about a specific residence. In their culture the question meant: Where are you teaching? And what was Jesus’ answer? Come and see! And what they saw wasn’t a synagogue, school building, or seminary, or even a church building. Jesus’ classroom was out there where people were.

So, tell me friends: What do you want? Do you want to get out of the United Methodist Church? Then the word disaffiliation is your word. But. . .if you want to step into the epic saga of The Kingdom of God, then your word is AFFILIATION! This decision is too important, too critical to make in an instant. Tomorrow evening one of the congregations I serve will begin the process of discerning. Thursday evening the other congregation I serve will begin their process of discerning. Our answers need to be more than staying or going to another Tribe. It must be about our Mission And Our Purpose! Failure to understand this will result in you jumping from the Titanic and onto the Britannic. Disaffiliation isn’t the quick fix. But Affiliation is what will lead us into God’s desirable future. For you or your congregation it may be through the Global Methodist, Free Methodist, Congregational Methodists, or being “independent”. That decision will come after you have decided to Affiliate With The Kingdom Of God!

THE NEW CUSS WORDS! PART 5

Jesus said, “You’re absolutely right. Take it from me: Unless a person is born from above, it’s not possible to see what I’m pointing to—to God’s kingdom.”

John chapter 3 verse 3 from The Message

It’s time to bring this–call it my musings or my rants–to an end. I prefer to think of these words as “one who is crying out in the wilderness”! Just a quick reminder: Cuss words are words we just don’t say or need to say in public, or even in private. And today’s New Cuss Word is Conversion. According to Google, the definition of Conversion is “the process of changing or causing something to change from one form to another.”

I have a Honda Goldwing; but it has had a Conversion Kit installed to change it from two wheels to 3 wheels. Now this Goldwing doesn’t have the same characteristics as it did when it was made–in fact, it can’t have the same characteristics because it’s been “converted” from it’s original condition. One of the many big things for John Wesley was his desire to see the Conversion of people. Call it Conversion, Being Born Again, or Saved the results are the same. Just like my Goldwing has completely changed from how it was made in the factory, so we need to be completely changed.

Wesley would insist that everyone is under sin’s influence. But to break free of sin’s influence and domination over our lives required that we be changed completely from the inside out. But the message of progressives ignores this need we all have to be Converted! (See in the first paragraph the meaning of “conversion”!) They believe–and want the rest of us to believe–that Conversion isn’t really necessary. All we need to do is just love God and love people.

They justify their abandonment of the Orthodox understand of sexuality by saying that Spiritual Gifts exist in those who live outside of that Biblical Sexual Ethic. They insist that by calling homosexuality incompatible with Christianity we are denying them a place to exercise their “spiritual gifts”. If they see Spiritual Gifts inside them, then those gifts exist in them. Thus it means that God has justified their “preferred choice of sin”. However, there can be no Spiritual Gifts outside of the indwelling and abiding presence of The Holy Spirit inside each of us. And The Holy Spirit does not fill nor abide inside the heart and spirit of any person until they have been Converted. Now, The Holy Spirit is around them–pursuing them–but The Spirit is not abiding. In fact, The Spirit cannot abide in any heart that is still corrupted and polluted with sin. That why Conversion is necessary. When Nicodemus was confused about what Jesus meant by saying we must be born from above, Jesus clarified it:

 Jesus said, “You’re not listening. Let me say it again. Unless a person submits to this original creation—the ‘wind-hovering-over-the-water’ creation, the invisible moving the visible, a baptism into a new life—it’s not possible to enter God’s kingdom. When you look at a baby, it’s just that: a body you can look at and touch. But the person who takes shape within is formed by something you can’t see and touch—the Spirit—and becomes a living spirit.

John chapter 3, verses 5 and 6 from The Message

By circumventing the necessity for Conversion, we continue to live outside God’s Original Design. Any group that chooses to call itself a “church” must have at its core the conviction that Conversion must happen in each of us. And thus we see today the Chaos and Decline of The United Methodist Church. Our leadership and some of my fellow clergy want us to sidestep the necessity of Conversion for a process that resembles the World–but NOT the Kingdom of God. A church without the message of Conversion is–well, it isn’t a church, that’s for sure. It’s a vessel from The Enemy to decieve the people from The Truth. We must be changed from one thing–one form–to a completely different life. The Life that Jesus modeled for us–The Life that Jesus died to provide for us–cannot become a reality until we are Converted.

THE NEW CUSS WORDS! PART 4

Dear friends, I had been eagerly planning to write to you about the salvation we all share. But now I find that I must write about something else, urging you to defend the faith that God has entrusted once for all time to His holy peopleI say this because some ungodly people have wormed their way into your churches, saying that God’s marvelous grace allows us to live immoral lives. The condemnation of such people was recorded long ago, for they have denied our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ.

Jude verses 3 and 4, from the New Living Translation

As I’ve been sharing the past few days, there are words that once had a good and powerful meaning–but now in the United Methodist Church have become the new cuss words. They say there are words we just don’t use in public because they sound offensive; at least to them. Today’s new cuss word is Faithfulness!

When I was ordained in the UMC, there was a series of questions asked of me. It was a serious and holy moment for me. I was making a commitment for my future. And I was expected to be Faithful to them. They were the same questions asked to every person seeking ordination. These came from John Wesley, himself. To answer NO to any of these questions would result in denying a person ordination. Here they are:

  1. Have you faith in Christ?
  2. Are you going on to perfection?
  3. Do you expect to be made perfect in love in this life?
  4. Are you earnestly striving after it?
  5. Are you resolved to devote yourself wholly to God and his work?
  6. Do you know the General Rules of our Church?
  7. Will you keep them?
  8. Have you studied the doctrines of The United Methodist Church?
  9. After full examination, do you believe that our doctrines are in harmony with the Holy Scriptures?
  10. Will you preach and maintain them?
  11. Have you studied our form of Church discipline and polity?
  12. Do you approve our Church government and polity?
  13. Will you support and maintain them?
  14. Will you diligently instruct the children in every place?
  15. Will you visit from house to house?
  16. Will you recommend fasting or abstinence, both by precept and example?
  17. Are you determined to employ all your time in the work of God?
  18. Are you in debt so as to embarrass you in your work?
  19. Will you observe the following directions? a) Be diligent. Never be unemployed. Never be triflingly employed. Never trifle away time; neither spend any more time at any one place than is strictly necessary. b) Be punctual. Do everything exactly at the time. And do not mend our rules, but keep them; not for wrath, but for conscience’ sake.

Look at questions 6 and 7–do you know the General Rules of our Church, and will you keep them? Now look at questions 8, 9, and 10. Move on to questions 11, 12, and 13. A considerable number of our Bishops and an even greater number of clergy have failed to be Faithful to their answers. I will show some grace towards them and suggest maybe they changed their minds. And if this is the case, then they should have surrendered their credentials and found a place that aligned with their beliefs. I mean, if you join an organization and later found out you disagreed with their actions, then you just quit! Right? Our disobedient clergy and bishops (who are supposed to be clergy also) have chosen to stay and break their vows of Faithfulness.

Now, there is another reason why they may be remaining in the United Methodist Church, even though their answers to questions 6 through 13 are now a resounding NO! They flat out LIED! Now, I’m not judging anyone–but Jesus did say that you would know a tree by its fruit. Many of those ordained in the past few years in our Conference are clearly on the progressive side. Again I allude to questions 6 though 13. They affirmed a Yes with their words, but now their thoughts, attitudes, and actions repudiate what they said at their altar of ordination. And I don’t think they’ve had a change of heart. It was in their mind and heart at Ordination–so the only conclusion one can reach is that they did indeed, LIE!

At the heart of the Body of Christ, the Koinonia, is the requirement, by God Himself, that we, all of us, lay and clergy, be Faithful To The Faith We Affirmed At Our Conversion, and for us clergy-types, that we affirmed at our Ordination! When Faithfulness is abandoned, thrown away like bags from a fast food restaurant out of a car window, then what can possible follow but decline and decay. This is what is happening in my beloved Tribe. We need to remember what Jesus said about making promises:

 Just say a simple, ‘Yes, I will,’ or ‘No, I won’t.’ Anything beyond this is from the evil one.

Matthew chapter 5, verse 37 from the New Living Translation

THE NEW CUSS WORDS! PART 3

He himself is the sacrifice that atones for our sins—and not only our sins but the sins of all the world.

1 John chapter 2, verse 2 from the New Living Translation

Who woulda ever thunk it? But in some circles of the United Methodist Church there is no such thing as the intentional death of Jesus for our sins. That’s right–some of our seminaries are instruction preachers and teachers that Jesus did not become incarnate so that He could suffer and die. Sound to unreal to believe? Well, just look at this recent Facebook post from our (alleged) Clergy Page:

I realize that this individual does not represent the whole of the UMC. But his comment reflects the malady and malise that is happening in my beloved Tribe. Humor me as I dissect his comment. He said: “His purpose was what he was doing as a healer, wisdom teacher, social prophet, and movement initiator.” Sounds like a social gospel to me–but without the most important part of THE Gospel. Yes, we should be out there, working for The Kingdom, speaking out against the evil in this world. But. . . a social gospel without the atonement is a perpetuation of the lie Satan told Eve and Adam–“You can be gods!”

He also wrote: “His death was the consequence of what he was doing, but not his purpose.” Geez, Louise! How dense can one person be? But don’t forget–this is what he was taught in a UM seminary. He’s not the first to say this–and his cemetery, I mean, seminary of choice taught him to believe this way. Other UM seminaries/cemeteries are teaching the same malarkey. Now, back to his opening line: “In the judgment of the majority of mainline scholars, atonement theology does not go back to Jesus himself. We do not think that Jesus thought that the purpose of his life, his vocation, was his death.” When he wrote that, I wonder if this was how Jesus looked?

So, atonement theology does not go back to Jesus himself. My personal response to this claptrap is in the words of Gomer Pyle from his days in Mayberry: “Shame, shame, shame!” I suppose, then, that Matthew exaggerated, even lied, when he quoted Jesus:

For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve others and to give his life as a ransom for many.

Matthew chapter 20, verse 28 from the New Living Translation

Is it any wonder that the United Methodist Church is crumbling like California in a 9.0 earthquake? Lord, help us! Dear Lord, save us!

THE NEW CUSS WORDS! PART 2

Jesus said to him, No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back [to the things behind] is fit for the kingdom of God.

Luke chapter 9 verse 62 from The Amplified Bible, Classic Edition

Yesterday’s new cuss word was ACCOUNTABILITY. Today the new cuss word is CONSISTENCY! We are being told that it’s OK to leave behind (Using a big word like mahogany,) The Orthodox Faith for a more enlightened version of the Good News. One of the things that our Council of Bishops is telling us is that they are not changing our historic “Doctrinal Standards And General Rules”; most of which came from John Wesley’s writings and sermons. Sounds good, right? But somewhere between their words and their actions something has gone terribly awry.

Those in leadership insist that many things the Bible clearly says is sin isn’t really a sin. “They”, our leaders, want us to believe that some things (meaning beliefs about ourselves) thought to be a “sin”, well, they aren’t really sins. That it is all a part of our God-created design. Well, buckeroos, what about Article VII which says this, and I quote from John Wesley himself:

Original sin standeth not in the following of Adam (as the Pelagians do vainly talk) but it is in the corruption of the nature of every man, that naturally is engenders of the offspring of Adam, whereby man is very far gone from original righteousness, and of his own nature inclined to evil, and that continually.

Paragraph 104 from The Book of Discipline; emphasis mine

As Wesley so eloquently put it, our our nature is inclined to evil, and that continually! In simple terms–we want to sin! Our natural path is to always go away from God. And simply to ignore that and call sin a part of our Creator’s Design is, well, INCONSISTENT. You see, it doesn’t matter what one says–it’s how they think and how they act. Our Bishops want us to believe that our nature is good and ordained by God–even though it’s not. They say we do not have to give up our “historic” faith–yet here they are–promoting and wanting to lead us away from The Bible and our Historic Faith.

Now tell me! Where is the CONSISTENCY in this? And my friends at StayUMC wants us to see the United Methodist Church as this big tent where traditionalists, moderates, and progressives can live together in peace and harmony. But how can we live under this big tent without being CONSISTENT with The Bible and our Historic, Orthodox Faith? We can’t, contrary to their opinion, because it doesn’t work, it isn’t working, and it will never work. Our leadership and StayUMC firmly believe that CONSISTENCY is a cuss word. Oh, they won’t say it is a cuss word. But their words and actions do. I leave you with these words from Paul:

Do not be unequally yoked with unbelievers [do not make mismated alliances with them or come under a different yoke with them, inconsistent with your faith]. For what partnership have right living and right standing with God with iniquity and lawlessness? Or how can light have fellowship with darkness?

2 Corinthians chapter 6 verse 14 from The Amplified Bible, Classic Edition; emphasis mine

Our historic faith says our natural self is always going towards sin. They say it doesn’t. Inconsistency is the order of the day for the Bishops and leadership of the United Methodist Church. And CONSISTENCY is a cuss word not to be spoken out loud. Does it make sense to you to “say” they are not leading you away from The Bible and our Historic when they clearly stand outside of Article VII? You decide!

THE NEW CUSS WORDS! Part 1

1 For everything there is a season, a time for every activity under heaven.
A time to scatter stones and a time to gather stones.
    A time to embrace and a time to turn away.
A time to search and a time to quit searching.
    A time to keep and a time to throw away.
A time to tear and a time to mend.
    A time to be quiet and a time to speak.

Ecclesiastes chapter 5, verse 1 and verses 5, 6, & 7 from the New Living Translation

Since when did Accountability become a cuss word? If you haven’t noticed, that’s how Accountability is treated in these times. The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines Accountability as “an obligation or willingness to accept responsibility or to account for one’s actions”. Notice that according to Mirriam-Webster that there should be a willingness or at the very least, an obligation on the part of every human being to be responsible for their choices. There is a plethora of examples where Accountability is a cuss word that should never be spoken in public. But I choose the example of my beloved tribe, the United Methodist Church, where Accountability is both obviously and painfully thrown away like last week’s leftovers.

My Tribe is in a tither. Some want to make it about human sexuality; but the truth is it’s all about biblical authority in all matters of faith and life. Our stance since 1976 is that all persons stand equally in need of God’s Grace, and all (I mean ALL) persons are of sacred worth, but homosexuality is incompatible with Christian teachings. However, leadership at all levels have openly violated this stance–nearly all without being held Accountable for their choices. And in those few cases where there has been an alleged Accountability, they’ve been slapped on the hands by a feather. But most have been operating freely in disobedience to both our Doctrinal Standards and The Bible.

So, now many pastors and congregations are entering into a discernment process on whether or not to remain in the United Methodist Church. Those of us who believe the time as arrived to part ways (hopefully as still friends) have been called misinformed, misogynists, homophobic, promoters of slavery, hateful, mean, and ugly. But the worst insult is that we don’t understand Jesus and the Bible. But many, who consider themselves moderate or progressively-moderate, tell us that it’s OK and acceptable for us who embrace Scriptural Authority and Holiness Of Heart and Life, to stay United Methodists.

In fact, some have started a website called Stay UMC. A good friend of mine is an active part of this group. They want us to know that there’s no need to part ways because there’s room for all of us. And isn’t that what Jesus wants? To stay together with all of our differences? Not really. The Bible calls for unity–and there can be no unity without Accountability! For you see, Accountability is one of the signs of the greatest kind of love. We all need people who will love us enough to hold us at arm’s length and speak the truth into our lives.

And though they say it’s not necessary to leave–we have these words above from Solomon–words about the right times for certain things. Notice Verse 5: “A time to scatter stones and a time to gather stones. A time to embrace and a time to turn away. Then look at Verse 7: “A time to tear and a time to mend. A time to be quiet and a time to speak. The United Methodist Church has reached this time. Without Accountability, every person is free to do whatever they want. And the results are an institution built around and based upon Irresponsibility. And for over 4 decades, many in the United Methodist leadership has considered Accountability a cuss word. And the time has come–to refrain from embracing and to speak out. Doing these things is painful and will result in a lot of name-calling. For my fellow United Methodists, you have a choice–either live in mutual Accountability or embrace Irresponsibility. And the crazy thing is–there would be no disaffiliations if only there was Accountability!

BUT ARE ALL SIDES EQUAL?

How can we understand God and what He wants of us and from us? This is, call it, The Quest of the human heart. Some call this the purpose of religion. Me? I hate religion! So I call it being a follower of Jesus. My Quest has placed me firmly in the tradition of this radical man known as John Wesley. John Wesley’s Quest for God radically changed after he finally learned to accept and believe in God’s Grace revealed in Jesus. His primary (and most important) source in his Quest was The Bible.

But Wesley understood that The Bible cannot be studied in a vacuum. In his Quest he used his experiences, his traditions, and reason to help him. Now, the late Albert Outler, a Wesley historian and theologian, recognized it and coined the phrase: The Wesley Quadrilateral. (See the above pic) But now, some are using–make that MISUSING Outler’s phrase. Later on Outler expressed regrets for creating that term. And here’s why! Many have chosen to make all sides of the Quadrilateral equal in importance; even though they are not equal. If one follows the entire life of John Wesley they could see that even he did not see they were equal. By the way, John Wesley never used the phrase The Quadrilateral.

Many today want to use this tool and device in ways they were never meant to be used. By saying all 4 sides are equal creates that moment when one or more of those sides will disagree with the others. And the result, at least in the United Methodist Church, has been chaos and division. Reason and Experiences have concluded that Scripture and Tradition has been wrong. Now, if all 4 sides carried equal validity, then let’s follow our Reason and our Experiences. And the result should be no chaos nor division. Everyone agree to set aside for the moment Scripture and Tradition and run with Reason!

But all 4 sides are not equal! One side of this Quadrilateral must be more powerful than any or all 3 of the other sides. Look at the side of Tradition! When Tradition has the power the result is Churchians and Tenured Pew Sitters who are stone cold dead; spiritually speaking. Or if Scripture is left in a vacuum, then we end up with Fundamentalists and New Breeds Of Pharisees; and they are not cold, but definitely spiritually dead. If Experiences are given the nod, the result is a quagmire of pain and disinformation. And if Reason is the only source? Well, look and listen to the gibberish that is being espoused by those who are using only Reason in the United Methodist Church.

The Quadrilateral doesn work because it doesn’t have a single and final source of authority. John Wesley used Experiences, Traditions, and Reason–but he always weighed them against one single authority in his life: The Scriptures! Look, sometimes Experiences do not point us to God. Sometimes Traditions do not point us to God. And dear Lord, most times Reason never points us to God; but that doesn’t meant it never points us to God–for it does.

Remember that The Quest is to understand God and what God wants of us. Experiences, Traditions, and Reason will sometimes–maybe often times–lead us away from God–whom our hearts long for. But Scriptures will always point us to God and what He wants of us. Our experiences, our traditions, and our God-given ability to reason are valuable tools to help us discover The Truth. They are NOT The Truth. That’s what Scriptures Are For: The Final Authority Over Our Lives.

WHAT THA. . . ??????????

If you were expecting another “Oh, Lord! It’s Monday!” post, it’s not happening today. There’s something bigger and more important on my heart–in fact–it’s been on my heart since early yesterday morning. You see, I made a mistake–I spend some time on Facebook. One of the groups that I follow is the United Methodist Clergy Page. I knew there would be some posts about the recent SCOTUS ruling on Roe V. Wade. The ruling, which by the way, doesn’t ban abortions. It puts the issue where it Constitutionally belongs–with the States. And corrected an earlier SCOTUS that misapplied the Fourth Amendment’s provisions against unreasonable searches and seizures to include the right to privacy. And since abortion is a “private” matter, it is Constitutionally guaranteed. Anywho–here’s what one of my fellow UMC Clergy said that prompted a reply from me (of course).

Huh? So there are no verses that describe principles anywhere in the N.T.? I couldn’t let this one slide. Here’s what I said:

Well, needless to say, this alleged Clergyperson did not like my reply. And this is what this “person of sacred worth who does not see other lives having sacred worth” said:

A conceived child is “exactly the same as a tumor in a body”! Really? Oh, John Wesley, how far has your vision and dream fallen into the depths of hell! Obviously this alleged clergyperson did not think it through. What does a tumor do to a body? It fills the person with fear and dread. It continues to grow until it destroys that body. And what does a baby do? It grows and develops, and then enters the world. And once in the world, that baby has the potential to find a cure for pancreatic cancer–design technology that improves the quality of life for the rest of the world–be a world peacemaker–the potential is unlimited. In fact, that potential existed while that child was in the mother’s womb. All that child needed to begin the journey to reach that potential was the opportunity to be born.

“A fetus is the POTENTIAL for a child. NOT a child.” I am at a loss for words that someone who claims to proclaim the Good News of The Kingdom of God could proclaim such an idea. Well–not really at a loss for words. “Vile! Mean! Depraved! Uncaring! Vicious! Nefarious! Warped! Noxious! Nasty! Disgusting!” Folks, this perspective of “a baby is just like a turmor” didn’t just appear suddenly. It’s been carefully developed over the past several decades. It comes directly from the President and Dean of Hell University. And it does not–nor will it ever fit into–the Narrative Of The Kingdom Of God!

So how do you and I react to the comments of this idiot? Let’s continue to show the sanctity of all human life–born and yet to be born. Let’s fill this culture with compassion for those who have chosen to have an abortion. Let’s get involved in increasing the quality of life for the least, the last, and the lost. And one more thing I will say–let’s work to decrease the costs related to adoption. Many couples I know would love to adopt and would provide a warm and loving home for a child–but the costs were prohibited.

And if there was ever any doubt about leaving the UMC–that doubt is gone. I have several friends who want me to stay in the UMC–but how can I effectively proclaim The Good News Of The Kingdom when the climate and environment within the UMC produces this kind of repulsive thinking? OK, rant is over!

JUST THROW IT AWAY AND FORGET ABOUT IT!

For my fellow United Methodists, I don’t have to tell you we are nothing but The Denominational version of the Titanic. If you are a United Methodist and don’t know what I’m talking about, “SHAME ON YOU! GET YOUR HEAD OUT OF THE SAND!” Why? Because this problem isn’t going away. And we cannot remain true to our Wesleyan heritage as long as This Problem exists. They (meaning Progressives, or as I prefer to call them, ‘ProAgressives’) want–nay DESIRE–nay again–they are DETERMINED to throw out the Bible and our Orthodox faith like yesterday’s trash. They “know” more than what The Bible clearly says–and for more than the Saints who sought and fought to preserve the Orthodox Faith. In case you may not be familiar with the word Orthodox (because it is a big word like mahogany), perhaps these synonyms will help you understand it better.

from http://www.thesaurus.com

Three of them in particular fit the bill to understand what I mean by the Orthodox Faith: authoritative, buttoned down, and by the numbers! But. . . there are those in this Tribe I have been a part of for over 66 years who are convinced (or should I say deceived) that the tried and proven truth about sexual ethic of the Bible is. . .well. . .just plain wrong. Jesus was all about the love, they claim. And they claim that only 2 genders, male and female, are way too restrictive for people to really be who they are. So, they’ve added 72 additional gender designations. Forget the science, forget the biology, and forget Genesis chapter 2. And forget how our stance on sexuality has been unchanged since 1972. It states that all people stand equally in need of God’s grace. However, the practice of homosexuality is incompatable with Christian teachings–i.e.–the orthodox faith. Homosexuality is not any worse than any other sin–but it is outside God’s design and thus it is a sin–along with that long litany of stuff that puts all of us outside of God’s Desgin.

And now to this past week–and it shows how far my beloved Tribe has wandered. According to our approved procedures and rules, no self avowed practicing homosexual can be licensed, commissioned, nor ordained. To assure fidelity to the Bible and our procedures, we have this group called The Board Of Ordained Ministry. Some call it the BOOM or BOM for short. In the most recent session of the Florida Annual Conference, their BOOM recommended 16 candidates to be commissioned on the path to full ordination. Of the 16, two admitted that they were self-avowed practicing homosexuals–clearly in violation of The Bible and our rules. However, the Florida BOOM approved them. But they still needed 3/4 of the ordained clergy to give final approval. And the stuff hit the fire.

What Bishop Ken Carter and the Florida BOOM did was to put all 16 candidates in a single vote. As a group, vote up or down. Now, in fairness, I do not know that the other 14 candidates met the requirements. However, we do know that 2 did not! And the resulting firestorm has been aimed at the 27.3% who voted against the 16 because Bishop Carter would not allow them to vote on the candidates one by one. 27.3% voted according to their ordination vows and the Bible, and now they are the villians. So, the 27.3% who acted in the same spirit as Joshua and Caleb (see the story of the 10 spies) are treated with great disdain and anger.

And a fellow blogger joins in the disdain and anger, Rev. Jim Harnish. You can read his blog here. Jim asserts that the orthodox faith is invalid because, well because we are such more enlightened. And during the eventual commissioning and ordaining service, Bishop Ken Carter apologized to that group with these words:

“I grieve the harm you have experienced.
I am committed to the support of your callings …

I would have gladly commissioned each of you, and gladly appointed each of you …

Bishop Ken Carter

So, Bishop Carter would have gladly thrown away both the Bible and our Discipline. Whether that’s what he meant or not, this is exactly what he was saying and doing. And to my fellow Brother Jim I say that simply because you have changed your views about The Bible and our Discipline, a Discipline you promised you would faithfully follow when you were ordained, doesn’t mean you are right. I am grieved that you would allow culture to define your faith rather than allow God’s Word to Transform the culture. And thus, we see the 21st Century version of the Titanic raising her bow in preparation for sinking. I am not angry–I am sad–and I am disappointed that there are those who will abandon John Wesley’s passion to be people of “homo unius libri.” (a people of One Book!)

To candid, reasonable men, I am not afraid to lay open what have been the inmost thoughts of my heart. I have thought, I am a creature of a day, passing through life as an arrow through the air. I am a spirit come from God, and returning to God: just hovering over the great gulf; till, a few moments hence, I am no more seen; I drop into an unchangeable eternity! I want to know one thing the way to heaven; how to land safe on that happy shore. God Himself has condescended to teach the way; for this very end He came from heaven. He hath written it down in a book. O give me that book! At any price, give me the book of God! I have it: here is knowledge enough for me. Let me be “homo unius libri.”

John Wesley (June 17, 1706-March 2, 1791)

Footnote: Though I am saddened, maligned by others, accused of quitting and giving up–I am still praying and hopeful that this blight and disorder–this cancerous lie–can be put in it’s rightful place. Back to hell where it came from and where it belongs! Furthermore, I am confident that the Wesleyan desire for renewal and revival is not dead on this earth. The signs are everywhere. And if our leadership in the UMC doesn’t have a change of heart–it will happen with another people–NOT in the UMC!

LOOK WHO’S TALKING!

Question for you this morning: Do we speak for the Bible or does the Bible speak for us? No, it’s not the same thing! Folks, believe this or not, it doesn’t matter one single iota! The church today has a serious problem–when it comes to the answer of this question. In my own Tribe, the United Methodist Tribe, the given answer by leadership is literally ripping us apart. But before you Baptists gloat over our split, look at the beam sticking out of your own eye. And this isn’t just a 21st Century problem. It’s plagued the history of The Body Of Christ. The disease is speaking for the Bible rather than the Bible speaking for us–and thus–to us!

It was even a problem back when Jesus walked this earth as one of us. The Pharisees and Sadducces saw their job was to speak for The Word Of God. They thought it was their job description–but it wasn’t. And today, it isn’t in anyone’s job description to speak for the Bible. In my own Tribe we have those who are doing just that. Speaking FOR the Bible means it’s up to us to determine what it means and how it applies to daily life! Mishegas! Oy vey, nosh, klutz! It’s pure schlock! Pure bupkis! I love Yiddish words and phrases. Here’s some examples of speaking for the Bible.

  • Torturing and killing anyone NOT a “christian”–by their definition
  • Judging others based solely on their race
  • Justification of slavery
  • Making women as second class citizens by saying they can’t do certain things
  • Jesus only died for certain people (predestination)
  • The blood of Jesus wipes away every sin and gives us all a new beginning–except when it comes to divorce
  • Jesus came to show us how to love, so this eliminates the long-standing sexual ethic, so it’s OK to be how you feel, sexually speaking

On that last example–Oy, Oy Vey, Oy Gevalt! It’s Dreck! Our Tribal leaders feel it is their job description (remember how Jesus felt about the Pharisees and Sadducces?) to tell the world that the tried and proven sexual ethic from the Bible is outdated. It takes an enlightened person, like them, to straighten out what the Bible got wrong. And if we don’t agree with them, then we’re mean, ugly, phobic, and hateful. What a bunch of schmucks!

BUT WHAT ABOUT SIN?

When anyone fails to recognize sin, they set themselves up for failure! More than just failure, but a life of misery. I know, I know! The topic of sin is considered taboo today. It’s also considered mean, hateful, and phobic to even mention sin. Yet, here I am using that word: SIN! SIN! SIN! If you’re still reading this, then I conclude that you either are contemplating my opening line is TRUE, or you know it to be true!

And when anyone in leadership fails to recognize sin, they set their entire organization up for failure! This is where my long-beloved Tribe, the United Methodist Church, is at. And because I am a United Methodist Clergy (and I might add, still faithful to my ordination vows, unlike many in my Tribe) I am qualified to speak into our current crisis; a crisis created by the failure to recognize sin. Our recent outgoing leader of the Council of Bishops, Cynthia Harvey (who took the same ordination vows I took, but has chosen to violate them) gave an interview with the Washington Times about the inevitable and impending separation in the United Methodist Church. (Click here to read the entire article) But want to speak into only one portion of her interview. Here it is, and I quote:

“We are the United Methodist Church right now and forever, a church confident in what God has done in Christ Jesus for all humankind, committed to personal and social salvation and transformation, a church that is courageous in dismantling the powers of racism, tribalism and colonialism.”

Bishop Cynthia Harvey

It’s that last line that is a burr in my saddle: a church that is courageous in dismantling the powers of racism, tribalism and colonialism.” But what about sin? Why shouldn’t our leadership be courageous in dismantling the power of sin? Alas, she only mentions 3 sins: racism, tribalism, and colonialism. Yes, racism is a sin. To draw conclusions about anyone based solely on their race–is SIN!

And she mentioned tribalism. I looked up the definition of that word and this is what I found: “the behavior and attitudes that stem from strong loyalty to one’s own tribe or social group.” I’m guessing, mind you, she’s talking about us Orthodox folks. But within the LBGTQI community, is where we see the strongest movement of tribalism. They not only want us to approve of their chosen sin, they want us to repent of even calling it a sin! Geez, Louise!

And then she mentions colonialism. Here’s the definition of colonialism: “the policy or practice of acquiring full or partial political control over another country, occupying it with settlers, and exploiting it economically.” I haven’t a clue what she means by this. I suspect, though, she’s talking about the new movement of Methodism reaching out to other countries to join in. Now, the only colonialism I see happening today is Russia and Islamic extremists.

Stopping these 3 sins will definitely improve the world stage, no doubt about it. But if we want to see The Kingdom Of God on earth, then we have to address and dismantle every form of sin! Anything less plays right into the strategy of Satan. And that’s the way it is, May 5, 2022!

LOVE LOWERS THE BAR! REALLY?

Love lowers the bar! That’s right, forget about Biblical Holiness, just love others as they are and forget everything else! What?????? Well, at least that’s what Progressives want everyone to believe. Over the years, our cousins–The Episcopal Church, and the United Methodist hierarchy have been exploring what they call “Communion”. In simplest terms, it means we recognize each others contributions to the Body of Christ, and will work together to further The Kingdom. But recently the Episcopals decided to put it on hold because of our current quagmire about human sexuality. The Episcopals have decided to wait until 2024 to see what our governing body decides about this issue, even though the issue was settled in 2019; a decision that hasn’t been followed hardly at all in the United Methdoist Church. (Read the article here)

What the progressives, or as I am prone to call them, Pro-Agressives, wants is for us to have a new God-Approved Definition of human sexuality. In other words, let each person decide–their gender, if they even have one, and with whom they want to have a sexual relationship. But wait! There’s more! One cannot love them unless they approve of their self-designed sexual designation! If you don’t approve–meaning it’s OK for them to be pastors and missionaries and such–then you hate them.

Their (twisted) logic is that Jesus came to show us what love looks like; and He loved everyone unconditionally–and this means He approves of their lifestyle, including sexual identity. Therefore, if we want to follow Jesus, then to love them we must place our stamp of approval on their lifestyle as well. So, when Jesus told the woman, “Neither do I condemn you, go and sin no more”, He meant, “Now you are free to commit adultery, if that’s how you feel about yourself.” And when Jesus said, “Be holy as The Father is holy”, what Jesus meant was, “In about 2,000 years you will be smart enough to define what it means to be holy! Forget what the Bible actually says. You get to decide! That is, if you will approve of what others believe!” (If you would like to read some of the comments about this article, go to the United Methodist News Facebook Page.)

Crazy, crazy, and more craziness! Right? And since we as human beings love to point the finger of blame at someone, where do we place the blame for this craziness? Personally, I want to blame the fundamentalists, for they are the 21st Century Pharisees. And we all know how Jesus felt about Pharisees! I would like to blame the Churchians and Tenured Pew sitters who want people to be conformed to their opinions rather than be Transformed by the mind of Christ. I would like to blame the Pro-Agressives for demanding their view be the only view. But then, I would miss the mark of who is really to blame.

And who is to blame? The answer is clear: Satan! He rejects The Truth and promotes The Lies. If anyone knows about the trickiness of Satan, it’s Peter. Remember, he denied Jesus 3 times. But later on, Peter wrote in 1 Peter chapter 5 verse 8: “Stay alert! Watch out for your great enemy, the devil. He prowls around like a roaring lion, looking for someone to devour.” He has devoured this culture by those who have bought into his lie that we are smart enough to define Holiness for us today. Well, that’s just a bald-faced lie! Wake up, folks! We can love everyone without condemning them. And we can love them without putting the church’s stamp of approval on their life choices. To some it may sound crazy to say this–but it is what it is!

TO INSANITY AND BEYOND! (The U.M.C.)

As an adult, I absolutely loved the movie Toy Story. And some will want to flog me with a wet noodle for saying this–but Buzz Lightyear is my favorite character. Even though that was nearly 25 years ago, I still love to watch that movie. Now I am seeing why I am drawn to Buzz Lightyear. It was his catchphrase: To Infinity And Beyond! But seriously, how can one go beyond infinity since infinity has no end?

And for the last few weeks, I have taken his catchphrase and replaced one word–and it is a word that describes my beloved United Methodist Church; and thus the title of today’s edition: To Insanity And Beyond! How does one go beyond insane? Clinicians in the world of behavioral science have pretty much agreed upon their definition of “Insanity”! But there is a better definition that is easily understood and on which there can be no disagreement. Well. . .unless you are insane. OK, here it is:

Insanity is doing the same things over and over and over–and expecting different results.

I am hearing, and I’m being told by my fellow United Methodists, that we are at a critical crossroads in our Tribe. I laugh to myself when I hear the word “crossroads”. The United Methodist church is at a crossroads, and the Democrats and Republicans want to be nice to each other. HAH! This may hurt the feelings of some of my fellow United Methodists, but. . .oh well! Toughen up, buttercup.

To say we are at a crossroads in the United Methodist Church declares that we have four options: go straight, turn right, turn left, or go back the way we came. This has been the situation going on for 5 decades, and the United Methodist Church continues to be in a serious state of decline every year. And what should have been decided this year has been postponed until 2021–the affect of COVID-19.

A group in my own Conference has started a movement called Stay UMC (click here for their website). Centrists and Progressive sincerely believe that we can stay UMC and maintain a diverse view of the authority and reliability of the Bible. Friends, this has been attempted now through 5 decades and we continue to be in a state of decline. It is insane to continue this way.

The image of where the United Methodist Church is at is not a crossroads, but we are at the T-Intersection!

At a T-Intersection you can’t go straight. The road has ended. Now you must choose a different direction. And because it will be a different direction, it means that we will no longer together be United Methodists. Truth is, it’s insane to think over the past 5 decades that we have even been in the same area code of United. We are fragmented and broken and the time has come for a kind and civil farewell to each other.

Make your choice because the road that the United Methodist Church has been traveling has come to a T-Intersection. It is insane to think that doing what we’ve been doing is going to produce a different outcome. If you believe that, then I refer you to my statement after paragraph 2. My fellow United Methodists, this madness must stop! I join the growing crowd who is giving up this game of Kicking The Can down the road. I know that this moment is not a Crossroads moment. Make a choice. Either we can trust The Bible or we can’t trust The Bible. Really, one cannot go beyond insanity.