Monday Meditation – Outside Our Comfort Zone

Comfort Zone

Sometimes we are called upon by God to do things that are outside our comfort zone.  Nowadays almost anything God asks us to do will tend to fall outside of what we usually do.

It is how our faith grows.  We come to trust in the Lord as we walk into unchartered territories.

Opposition

Our faith is truly tested when opposition comes up against us as we walk in a new thing.  Rarely are there no troubles when it comes to doing something difficult.

The angel’s words to the women at the tomb who were about to embark on a journey none of them had ever taken before, rings ever truer today in an age of skepticism, fear, anger and hate.

“Do not be afraid.” Matthew 28:5 (NIV)

Let us take to heart the angel’s admonition as we begin to walk out in faith on the new things God is doing in the Church and in the world.  There will be many changes in the coming months and years.  Let us remain true to our God and have the courage to face the opposition that may come against us as we try to do God’s work in this Church and this creation we have been given.

Dear God, Holding fast to what endures – Your love, Your grace and Your justice – and letting go of what is but mere chaff, grant us the courage to live faithfully beyond our comfort zone.  Amen.

Meditation Monday: Building Up

Building Up

Dozens of new high rise buildings have been constructed in Nashville during the last five years. I counted seven gigantic cranes highlighting the cityscape at one point from my office window in downtown Nashville.

It’s been bittersweet to see these tall buildings seem to grow right out of the ground. Nashville’s construction shows vitality but it also comes with its own growing pains.

Affordable housing has become an issue as most of the new housing in development is high end real estate. What use to take fifteen minutes now takes double or even triple that amount to get into town during rush hour. The construction barrel has become the new state flower.

Building vs. Building Up

Yet for all their influence on the city, they are but buildings that remind me of the Jewish Temple of Jesus’ times. The Temple was much bigger and grander than any building ever imagined for its time and place, yet it, too, could be toppled. While the Romans burned the Temple, it was Jesus who called out its demise. Why? Because it no longer served the people it had been created to be in relationship with. It was a building that lost it’s purpose of building up. The Temple and its priests hoarded the wealth of the Temple for themselves, while the hungry, the poor, the sick cried out for relief. God heard their cry and gave the Temple ample warning to do better through Jesus.

As Jesus left the temple, one of his disciples said to him, “Teacher, look! What awesome stones and buildings!”

Jesus responded, “Do you see these enormous buildings? Not even one stone will be left upon another. All will be demolished.” Mark 13:1-2 CEB

If the Temple could be brought down for not practicing its purpose, its ministry, how much more can churches be allowed to stand who have wandered away from their mission of doing for the least of these?

If Jesus was willing to call out the Temple for not building up the people, how much more does He want to call each of our churches out for not fulfilling the mission of the church – to make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world?

Dear God, help us to do your will in our churches. Help us to remember they are but buildings able to be brought down easily if they no longer serve their purpose for all your people – even the least of these. Amen.

Giving to Support United Methodist Beliefs

Giving

Many of the year-end giving appeals you receive are about increasing tax ramifications for one’s financial gift. These are important and support many great causes. However, as Christians we also realize the spiritual significances of our year-end financial giving to the ministries of our local churches and non-profits.

Year End Giving

Giving is an act of worship. It is an act of faith, of planting what future generations will see grow to fruition.

Our connectional giving provides support to our leaders who face the daunting task of steering the Church towards a common goal of faithfulness, forgiveness and making disciples for Jesus Christ. Connectional giving supports our efforts to minister to a hurting world.

We have organizations within our denomination dedicated to aiding the needy, healing the sick, comforting the stranger and addressing social ills. Our giving helps support these.

The needs are genuine. We are and always have been a connection of believers in need of one another’s generosity.

“For, as I can testify, they voluntarily gave according to their means, and even beyond their means, begging us earnestly for the privilege of sharing in this ministry to the saints— and this, not merely as we expected; they gave themselves first to the Lord and, by the will of God, to us,” 2 Corinthians 8:3-5 NRSV

As United Methodists we are dedicated to these causes. As a denomination we are called to support them.

Investing financially in what God has given us a passion for is one of the ways to participate in making disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world. God gives to us so that we might give. In giving we can fulfill our purpose in life – to love as God loved us.

During this time of gift-giving, let us remember our ministries that mean so much to us. As much as God has given you, provide good stewardship and give!

To learn more about how to give, where to give, and the impact of your donations, visit www.umcgiving.org

Meditation Monday: Good Fruit

 Good FruitThe ax is already at the root of the trees. Therefore, every tree that doesn’t produce good fruit will be chopped down and tossed into the fire. Matthew 3:10 (CEB)

In the above passage, John the Baptist speaks of trees that do not produce fruit and will then be chopped down and tossed into the fire. He said this to the Pharisees and Sadducees, the keepers of the synagogue and Temple, the places of worship.

Producing Good Fruit

How do the places of worship produce good fruit? During Jesus’ time good fruit was brought to the Temple and the synagogues. Tithes, alms and offerings were given. Too often, though, religious places held onto this wealth in terms of not just finances but also food. They could “produce good fruits” but often they didn’t, seeking instead to hoard the “fruits” for themselves.

John the Baptist began the message that Jesus would continue to teach and preach throughout his ministry – to turn away from building up the Temple’s wealth and turn toward building up the people of God, having them repent and believe in the good news. This is the message Jesus brought with him to the whole Earth starting with his birth into our human world.

“Produce fruit that shows you have changed your hearts and lives.” v. 8 CEB

Dear Lord, you came to live among us, showing us the ways of God. Create in us the ever thirsting need to produce “good fruit” from all that you have given us, both as a Church and as your people. Do not cut us down but deliver us from our greed and fear. Help us to hear the cries of the needy when we remember the cry of our Savior denied a place to lay His head on the day of His birth. Amen.

Meditation Monday: Family Values

family-values

Family Values

While families come in many and varied configurations nowadays, some “family values” are always present.

  1. Respect
    Despite differences of opinions as a family we respect one another. We believe in the best of one another. We hold in high regard the intentions of each family member.
  2. Patience
    An offshoot of respect, we practice patience with one another as people learn and grow in a myriad of ways.
  3. Love
    This is what makes the first two in the list possible. We love one another in a family and accept that it is what motivates other family members’ actions. Love make it possible for us to be patient with each other and live together under one roof or name.

God is love and as such is present in every type of family including church families.

“Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility regard others as better than yourselves. Let each of you look not to your own interests, but to the interests of others. Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus …” Philippians 2:3-5 (NRSV)

Dear God, help us to respect one another. To live with patience for one another and to love one another above all no matter what challenges may come. You are Lord of all. Amen.

Support the spirits of our military troops

Support Troops

Support the spirits of those who serve us

Those who serve our country in the armed forces and the first responders in our communities often witness harrowing acts of war and violence.  It makes an impact on the body, mind, and spirit of each one of them.  Too often, though, the spirit is forgotten.  We rally to make sure those who provide help to others have sufficient medical/psychological care and benefits befitting the nature of the intense jobs they hold.  But how can we care for their spirits?  The United Methodist Men had an answer.  From an Eagle Scout project, Strength For Service was born.  It supplies devotional books to members of the armed services and first responders free of charge.  For a story about how your ministry can support this project click here.  Help the men and women who do so much for us with books designed to help build up their spirits.  This is but one way to honor their service to us.

Moving Forward From Election Day

Election

Soon all the votes have been counted and we will have a new president of the United States.

Election Day

If we thought the election was a contentious time to live through, now comes the governing. Now we must come together as a nation and have good healthy discussions on what it is we, who are from all different backgrounds, can achieve for the good of all. We have but one planet we have been given to live upon and practice good stewardship over.

We are a young country. Yet our democratic way of life still stands.

Society is changing, as it always does, for nothing stays the same. So we as a country must evolve as well.

Governing through change is hard. We have that reference in our scripture as Moses tried to help the Hebrews change their circumstances while also trying to keep them together as the people of God. The Hebrews strayed. They got angry. They grew fearful. Some wanted to go back to the way things were. God, via Moses, did all that God could do to maintain God’s people through the wilderness of transition. Unfortunately for the Hebrews, an entire generation had to pass before they could get to the promised land.

Let us not have to lose a generation in order for us to reach the common good for all, either as a country or a denomination.

GCFA Quadrennial Training

Training

The GCFA Quadrennial Training Event in Jacksonville, Florida has just finished. What an exciting time it was for United Methodists to come together for a shared purpose. Getting to know one another is as important as getting to all the plenary sessions. Hopefully the relationships formed will last a life time and give all another person who is going through some of the same situations in their conference and possibly someone to reach out to for help, advice or a listening ear.

The governing of a church takes all of us not just “leaders.” We rise and fall together as congregations of believers.

Laity along with bishops, clergy and lay servants all play a role in the coming of God’s kingdom here on earth. Jesus is our example. Let us then be like Jesus and…

“… love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your being, with all your mind, and with all your strength. The second is this, You will love your neighbor as yourself. No other commandment is greater than these.” Mark 12:30-31 (CEB)

In fact, let us love our neighbors and ourselves like God loves us, wholly and with grace and righteousness.

Meditation Monday: Masks

masks

This is the time of the year for of trick-or-treating, candy corn and costumes. We put on masks with our costumes to hide our true identities from those around us. Or we use costumes to become what we often dream we were.

For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known. 1 Corinthians 13:12 (KJV)

The problem with Masks

The problem with masks is that they don’t let us see very well the world around us. While they are supposed to be used to scare away demons, they often obscure our vision of those demons.

So it is with all the masks we wear…even the everyday ones. They distort our sight and often narrow our ability to see all angles, views and perspectives.

While we can “play” with our masks and have fun on the day of All Hallows Eve, let us not play anymore with masks in our real life. Let us not hide and let us not deny ourselves the ability to see clearly and embrace the world God has displayed before us.

Dear God whom we cannot hide anything from help us to get rid of the masks we hide behind our daily lives. They distort our perception of reality and perpetuate this myth of “worldly perfection.” Perfection only lies with You and our journey toward You is what perfects us. Amen.

Meditation Monday: All Saints

saints

May you be strengthened with all power, according to his glorious might, for all endurance and patience with joy, giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in light.  He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son,” Colossians 1:11-13 ESV

All Saints’ Day

Last month the leader of the Catholic Church, Pope Francis, canonized Mother Teresa as a saint. There is rigorous criterion one must meet to be made a saint. Two criteria for becoming a saint are a life of heroic virtue and the authentication of two miracles said to occur because of mediation from that “blessed” person .

For United Methodists, all Christians who have been faithful are considered saints. We celebrate All Saints’ Day to “remember Christians of every time and place, honoring those who lived faithfully and shared their faith with us.”

While Mother Teresa has many supporters both inside and outside the Catholic Church, she also had her detractors. It has been argued that she perpetuated the cycle of poverty and suffering among the poorest of the poor in India.

While the term “Saint” is a loaded one, we still use it because it holds value as lifting up people who will be remembered for their faith. It does not make them perfect. For none are perfect but Jesus Christ. The canonization of Mother Teresa helps us to remember that we all have fallen short but we all are moving towards perfection in this life we have been given.

Dear God, we thank you for all the faithful who have gone before us, those saints on whose shoulders we rest the foundations of our church. Help us to remember them as they were, human and flawed but searching constantly for you in the midst of the darkness so that Your light might shine brighter. Amen.