An Investment In the Kingdom

Your Alternative to Traditional Banking

For which of you, desiring to build a tower, does not first sit down and count the cost, whether he has enough to complete it? Otherwise, when he has laid a foundation and is not able to finish, all who see it begin to mock him, saying, ‘This man began to build and was not able to finish.’ Luke 14:28-30 ESV

We are excited to let you know about the United Methodist Credit Union Association (UMCUA) and some of the ways association members can be your financial partners in ministry, helping you to build up the Kingdom.

They are a group of credit unions throughout the United States working in collaboration to provide an alternative to traditional banking.

Each credit union operates independently and provides banking and lending solutions to clergy, laity and local churches throughout the Unites States. As a member of a United Methodist church you are eligible to join and take full advantage of all of their products and services designed with you in mind!

You might wonder what exactly is a credit union and why would you join one?

One of the biggest reasons, is that when you partner with them, you are making an investment in the kingdom.

You see, the more members they have; the better dividends they can pay and the more projects they can fund like the building project with 1st UMC in Upland, California. Personal savings and checking accounts, home and auto loans to church construction projects and refinances  are just a few of the ways they are investing in our United Methodist connection.

UMFCU, a member of UMCUA, funds church loan for installation of energy saving solar panels

“We are happy with these needed funds to complete the installation of our solar panel energy efficient and money saving project.  This is our second loan with the UMFCU and we appreciate the competitive rates and terms and great member services.”  Maxine Sawtell, Chair of Board of Trustees of 1st UMC of Upland in Upland, CA.

credit unions

UMFCU President and CEO, Ramon Noperi, congratulates 1st UMC of Upland for its solar panel church loan.  Maxine Sawtell and Andy Parsons from 1st UMC Upland, accept the loan.

This is but a glimpse of the partnerships within the United Methodist Financial Credit Union Association.

Stop by online to learn more.

www.umcua.org

Monday Meditation – Football Season

Football

Football season is upon us.  So begins that great past time activity – Monday morning quarterbacking!  It is something pastors are familiar with only theirs is called Sunday afternoon pulpit preaching.

This activity occurs when the game or sermon has been experienced and at the next available gathering time for fans or congregation members, attention focuses on what the coaches and quarterbacks and preachers and ministers “should” have done.  It is a time when everyone has an opinion about what happened even though none were actually on the field or in the pulpit.

Learning can happen in the stands or easy chairs, and the pews.  But be mindful not to critique from the sidelines or the back pew unless you’re ready to get on the field or in the pulpit to show how your observations should be taken and how they can improve the game or message.

Getting on the field can take many forms.  I don’t mean you actually have to make it as a player or a coach, or be ordained as an elder or deacon.  If your advice is good enough to be shared, share it, not just with other fans but with the team leadership or church leadership.  Dialogue (two-way communication) is important in this day and age of social media isolation and selfies.

Yet remember the three rules of sharing one’s opinion.

  1.   Is it relevant?
  2.   Is it necessary?
  3.   Is it kind?

Dear Lord, help us to share what we know with others in a way that is both helpful and gracious.  Let us not just critique for the sake of gossip but to be helpful.  Help us to listen and watch carefully so that we might know of what we speak when we talk.  Amen.

 

A call to Love is a call to Love – EVERYONE. What?!

embracelove

On Facebook, I have seen some examples of people of color loving neo-Nazis and white supremacists.  In forming intimate friendships, they have been able to love the hate out of them and become friends.

If we are all made in the image of God, and thereby worth everything in God’s eyes, enough for God to send God’s Son to us, then is loving the enemy something central to all our lives as Christians?

Are we prepared to do this as a church?  Can we #embracelove around our neo-Nazi brothers and sisters?

In order to love we must first prepare ourselves.  How can we do so?

  1. Loving each other. We must be a living example of a people who love one another without conditions.
  2. Resting in the love of God and our fellow Christians. Learning to accept love will help us to teach others how to do so as well.
  3. Learn to listen. Truly listen to hear the other not to prepare a retort or comeback.  Listening to understand is not acceptance.
  4. Rely on hope. We will not always succeed.  Some will resist our embracing them with love.  We must never lose hope that God will touch their hearts in some way that lies beyond our presence in their lives. Only God redeems the irredeemable.

No one is beyond reproach from God or God’s followers.  While we as a church do not accept the rise of Nazism and we do not believe in one race’s superiority over another, we also believe that all are deserving of God’s love and healing touch, no matter what their sin.

Dear Lord, we live in troubled times.  Help us to see each other’s worth not in skin color but in the content of our character, the strength of our love for one another and the righteous grace You bestow upon us.  Amen.

Prayer for Texas and Louisiana

Embed from Getty Images

Lord God, so many are in peril this day as rough waters surround so many in Texas and other areas nearby, literally and figuratively.  Lord we ask for your Son, the one to whom we can turn to in times of trouble to bring His peace to those in danger.

Lord we pray for those who have answered the call to help.  Give them strength to carry out their mission of rescue.  Let those who are called to give, give readily, both in their time, gifts and finances.

When storm clouds plant themselves above our heads help us to remember that the rainbow is yet to come.  Lord help us through these torrential times.

We thank you for all that you have done for us thus far in our lives and the life of our country.  Let us remember that at the heart of it, we are all your children in need of help and love all the time.  Let us be to one another the hands and feet of Christ even as the heavens are thrown open.

We pray this in our savior’s name, Jesus Christ, amen.

How to Help

You can make a financial contribution to UMCOR’s disaster response efforts by giving to U.S. Disaster Relief, Advance #901670, or to Material Resources  Advance #901440, through your local church or directly through their website.

Whether you put together hygiene kits or cleaning buckets, take a collection to support our shared response through UMCOR, or spend some extra time in prayer for those caught in the path and for those who will respond, thank you!

Resources

More information about response efforts is available on these conference Facebook pages: The Texas Annual Conference of the United Methodist ChurchLouisiana Conference of The United Methodist ChurchRío Texas Conference of The United Methodist Church and Central Texas Conference.

Monday Meditation – Go, Go, Go!

On the Go

The word “go” is prevalent in the gospel stories.  In Matthew alone it appears 82 times, not counting any derivatives.  Jesus is the one who often is uttering the word to his disciples, to demons, to those sick and now healed.  Almost everyone is charged with “to go” in some way by Jesus.

We Christians are to be a moving people!

If anyone forces you to go one mile, go with them two miles. Matthew 5:41 (NIV)

As you go, proclaim this message: ‘The kingdom of heaven has come near.’ Matthew 10:7 (NIV)

Jesus sends us out into the world.  We are to always be in a mission state of mind.

A previous week’s devotional said, “We are to inhale worship and exhale witness”, we are to bear witness to what Christ has done for us, in order that others may see the love and power of Christ in this world.  We must “go” into the world outside our church walls. This is what Jesus did when he met people where they are instead of making them come to him at the synagogue.

God, for whatever reason, has chosen to work through us in this world.  How do we chose to achieve that responsibility is up to us.

Dear God above and below in our lives, help us to be worthy partners in these ministries You have led us into.  You are our lead.  Open our eyes and hearts to see and know Your Holy Spirit and how it is moving in our world.

The Last Word : A Response to Charlottesville

Virginia

 “I have decided to stick to love. For I know that love is ultimately the only answer to mankind’s problems…. He who has love has the key to ultimate reality.” Martin Luther King, Jr.

I find myself in a turmoil this past weekend.  The events in Charlottesville, VA have disgusted and angered me in two ways.  Disgust for the vision of separatist hate that the fascist right proclaims and anger for the violence perpetrated against those protesting peacefully against these voices of hate.

It’s difficult to watch what happened in VA and not be troubled at how much our country has changed in the last decade and also in how it hasn’t changed very much since the 1950’s.  Hate and violence seem to be the answer to every problem. Or worse, indifference and dismissiveness.

Having seen what we have this weekend we must take a stand.  We must say “NO” to hate, “NO” to violence and “YES” to love and “YES” to nonviolence.  And we must do so in the face of abject hatred and terrible violence just as the protestors of the neo-nazi, white supremacy, alt-right groups were doing, before being mowed down by one of them.

“So because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I’m about to spit you out of my mouth.” Revelation 3:16 CEB

Now is not the time to be lukewarm.  It is a time for passion and desire.  For what?  For justice, for righteousness, for equality, for love.

Those who hate have decided now is the time to reveal themselves.  Let us look them in the eye without hoods covering their faces and speak love to them, speak the gospel message to them, speak the coming kingdom of God to them.

Their time is limited.  Jesus has already vanquished hate and death.  In His resurrection, we have love abundant for all.  And that is the last word.

Dear God, you are almighty.  You are all loving.  Help us to love during this time of turmoil we as a country are facing.  Help our individual hearts seek peace from you.  Help the leaders of our country to speak peace and love not hate and violence.  Help us as Christians to lead in our Savior’s footsteps of nonviolence and righteous understanding.  Amen.

Monday Meditation – Breathe

Breathe

Mission is the church breathing; we inhale in worship and exhale in witness.  Dr. Dana L Robert.

Rarely does mission and witness happen within the walls of the church building.  Instead, inside the sanctuary, fellowship hall and classrooms, we Christians fill our lungs and bodies full of the Holy Spirit.  We fill our minds with knowledge of the bible and Jesus’ life.  We learn to love one another despite our differences.  When we do all that – inhale – we can then exhale all that we have gathered within the church walls out into the world.

“Then the Lord God formed man from the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostril the breath of life.” Genesis 2:7 NRSV

We have the breath of life we can exhale into a world that is suffering from consumerism, radical individuality and a lack of compassion for one another.

When instead we exhale sacrifice, the beloved community and love for one another, we supply life to a dying world.  We supply a witness to how the kingdom of God is near.

Dear God, worthy are you of praise.  Extend to us your righteousness and love.  Help us to experience you and thereby be able to witness to others your love.  Help us to inhale your breath of life and to exhale the love of life to a dying world.  Amen.

Monday Meditation – A Ministry Passion of Mine

feeding

And I will still be carrying you when you are old.  Your hair will turn gray and I will still carry you.  Isaiah 46:4 ERV

During my sabbatical, in addition to caring for my grandchild, attending Spanish classes and keeping the house clean, I was able to participate in a passion of mine in ministry to older adults.

In my church’s neighborhood, there is a group of older adults who live at or just above the poverty line.  They are typically living alone, their children hardly visit, and they are lonely.

During my sabbatical and even now, I meet with them regularly.  Being an introvert, I can give them what they most crave – someone who listens.  It is a skill I get to use to the glory of God.

Response

They have responded by coming to our church once a month to be fed physically, mentally and spiritually.  In addition to listening to them and being with them, I also cook for them.  You see, cooking  is another one of my passions.

I have great joy in working out God’s call on my life.  To be able to partner with God in shepherding these older adults through their later years is immensely rewarding to my soul.  It is my way of answering Jesus’ command to his disciples in Mark 6:37, “You give them something to eat.”

For whatever reason, God has chosen to include us in His work caring when we care for the marginalized, including the elderly.  As God’s partner, we must take seriously the many institutional changes going on in the country today that may leave the elderly behind in poverty and at risk.

I do what I can in my life to carry out the gospel message, but I cannot forget that society must never leave behind those whom Jesus came to save even the one amongst the many.

Dear God, you are the Great One, the Almighty One.  Lord, we come before you now asking for our part to play in Your ministries in this world.  Whether it is as an individual or as a society, help us to come together to do Your will and show Your love here on earth.  Help us to remember the lonely and the powerless.  We ask for clarity from, and for, our representatives in the halls of government.  Help all of us to choose wisely and not selfishly. Amen.

Energetic Supporters

Boosters

Booster [boo-ster]

noun

  1. a person or thing that boosts, especially an energetic and enthusiastic supporter.

Football teams have Boosters.

Schools have Boosters.

Can churches have Boosters?

Jesus had Boosters.  Mary and Martha were two of his favorites.  “Now as they were traveling along, He entered a village; and a woman named Martha welcomed Him into her home.  She had a sister called Mary, who was seated at the Lord’s feet, listening to His word.” Luke 10:38-29 NASB

The apostle Paul had Boosters.  Rufus and his mother who was like a mother to Paul were just two of Paul’s many Boosters. “Greet Rufus, a choice man in the Lord, also his mother and mine.” Romans 16:13 NIV

Surely then a local church can have Boosters who are enthusiastic supporters in the community that can help get the word out about the ministries of the church and contribute in many ways to the life of the church.

Boosterville is a program that allows non profit groups like local churches to encourage their “Boosters” to make purchases from participating Boosterville businesses, such as restaurants, hair salons, pet groomers, bookstores, coffee shops and more. In return, these businesses share back a small portion of those purchases directly to the nonprofit group designated by the buyer.

Recently, a check was presented at the Indiana Annual Conference for the money Bethel UMC Boosters in Indianapolis raised during their first month of using Boosterville.  They’ve used Boosterville to support fellowship outside of the church by sending members to gather at a local pizza place to raise money as a group.

Does your church have Boosters who are ready to participate?

When it all comes together

Steeple

Churches and their communities have worked together in ministry for a very long time.  Church outreach and community needs have blended to provide resources and spiritual support for the people they serve.

Local churches oftentimes find that the needs of the community stretch their resources.  Many church leaders are constantly being creative and innovative in the ways they provide service.  There is a long list of opportunities to raise funds for local church ministries.  Using the steeples is one way to do it.

Churches are looking for ways to support ministries even in this technologically advanced environment. In order to carry out the ministry of Jesus in their communities, several churches around the country have used their church buildings to house cellular towers within their steeples to bring in much needed revenue for the expansion of the Kingdom of God.

This provides an income source for the church and a needed communications piece for the community.  Steeplecom, a vetted sponsor of GCFA, is a company that provides services to local churches to navigate through the maze of telecommunications contracts.  If you want more information about Steeplecom, visit their site: www.steeplecom.com/umc.

Whether it’s hosting a community meeting on the needs of children in the area, church services for members and visitors, or bible study, local churches all raise funds to support their ministries.  It all comes together for the good of the church, the community, and the people engaged in ministry.