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.

Happy New Year

And we begin. Again.

“Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland”
Isaiah 43:18-19

You see it everywhere. Signs of the new year are all around us. New offers from retailers and car sellers. People making new commitments to “improve” their lives. New year. New start. New beginnings. But it doesn’t really start here. Perhaps it really started with our celebration of just a week ago. It started with the true gift of Love God shared with His people – the birth of the Christ Child.

The start of something new beckons us to forget the old – old eating habits, old health routines, old ways of thinking. It would seem quite appropriate in this day and age for United Methodists to remember one thing and renew it: to exhibit the kind of Love for each other that God has given us as an example. When we renew and exhibit that kind of love, we are able to perceive the new things God has in store for us.

What will the New Year bring?

The past year – the old – has been one of many discussions of the problems we face as a denomination. The concerns and comments are valid and bring up points that we must consider as we move forward as believers. You see news articles and blog posts about those concerns for the Church. You hear of ways Church leaders are moving forward to address these issues. The discussions seem like wastelands. At times we feel lost and wandering and wonder where we are headed. But those same conversations offer us some great hope – that while we acknowledge the differences between us, we also exhibit greater love for each other.

So…Happy New Year

So we ended the previous year with hopes of renewal for the new one. May Love be at the center of all we do, hope for, pray for, and work together to achieve among us and throughout the world.

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

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.

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.

Meditation Monday: Pastor Appreciation

Pastor Appreciation

And I will give you pastors according to mine heart, which shall feed you with knowledge and understanding. Jeremiah 3:15 KJV

October is pastor appreciation month. It is a time when we honor all the hard work by the “shepherds” of the church. It is a tough job and often thankless.

Pastor Appreciation

We assign one month a year to celebrate and thank our pastors. On social media there is a video going around entitled, “Some days Jesus has to shepherd me like this …” it shows a modern day shepherd grabbing something down in a deep hole. As he pulls to get it out we realize that somehow one of his sheep has slipped into a tiny but deep hole. Pulling it out by its hind legs in order to rescue it, the message is clear.

Not only do our pastors help to shepherd us through life with prayers, guidance and advice which feed our souls, sometimes they pull us out of the deep holes we fall into. We can recall some of these moments as we come to this month of thanks and appreciation.

Dear God help us to appreciate those you have set the mantle of leadership upon. We know we can be unkind at times, but we also are capable of the most loving acts of appreciation. Encourage us to show our thankfulness for our pastors, the shepherds of your flock. Amen.

Click here to read pastors sharing what they love the most about their job.

An Act Of Love

Protection

Echoing in the back of my head through my years of ministry is the song “They’ll know we are Christians by our love.” It is a great reminder about who we are to the world and who we strive to be to each other.

Let me take you on a different journey of showing love for your church. Try this for a moment: Another act of love is to insure our churches and manage risks in our churches.

An Act Of Love

Adequate insurance for a church is an act of love. We show that love when…

  • We insure our church buildings so that they continue to be place or worship and mission engagement.
  • We insure our leadership for the decisions they make.
  • We insure the property for liability for those who might be hurt while at church.

Risk management is an act of love. How do we do this?

  • We do background checks on our employees and volunteers on a regular basis.
  • We maintain our property to be safe for all who come our way.
  • We have internal controls in our financial life and have insurance to protect our finances.
  • We insist that outside groups using our buildings show evidence of insurance to protect them and the church.
  • We train our leaders and employees on issues related to harassment and misconduct.

Jesus loves me this I know and Jesus loves all of us. And love wins when we are in the Jesus follower business. Love your church and love all of those who share in your ministry by securing a safe environment for ministry, wherever the Jesus follower business takes you and your church!

For further information on insurance and risk management in the local church, review the EBook we make available.

Meditation Monday: A New Psalm

psalm

A New Psalm

Lord of Heaven and Earth

We stand before you vulnerable and confused.

We are overwhelmed by it all.

Lord help us!

Hear our cry, oh God!

Leave us not alone here.

 

We wrestle with all that is going on around us:

The persecution of our fellow Christians,

The bombing of families with children,

The trafficking of women into sexual slavery,

Floods and wildfires,

Large and small scale acts of violence and desecration.

There is so much to wear us down.

 

Yet we know you are God,

You are the Most High.

It is into Your hands we put ourselves and our brothers and sisters.

We pray and You hear.

We listen and we do.

And though it may seem our little acts have no effect,

We believe that a thousand ripples can cause a tidal wave

Of love that can wash away all that is not Your will.

 

Praise be to our God!

UMC Flood Relief

Flood ReliefOne Drop Of Water That Leads To A Flood

One drop of water is insignificant.

One trillion drops can stop an entire city!

In Louisiana, in a short time, millions upon millions of drops of water fell from the sky inundating the people, their pets and their homes with flood waters. Four parishes have been declared disaster areas because of this flood. There is much devastation and chaos.

Like snowflakes, individual water droplets are singularly beautiful, even innocuous and not all that forceful. But when they get together, their power becomes an overwhelming flood, sinking entire homes and killing people.

One Drop Of Grace That Leads To A Flood Of Love

Yet, just as much as drops of water coming together can wreak havoc upon a community, so too can United Methodists when we come together to bring grace and love to people devastated by flood waters.

The United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR) is working with FEMA and other national disaster response organizations, including the American Red Cross, Lutheran Disaster Response, Southern Baptist Disaster Relief, and the umbrella group, National Voluntary Organizations Active in Disasters (NVOAD). They are helping those affected by this flood with warehouse space, cleanup buckets, distribution assistance, and shelter for evacuees—opening hearts, minds and doors to those in need.

Banding together, United Methodists can take on the flood and show people how God is working their midst.

The best ways to help are to assemble and send cleanup buckets and to support the UMCOR U.S. Disaster Response Advance, #901670, with your donations.

And praying, always praying.

Dear God, we pray hope and peace to our brothers and sisters in Louisiana. We ask for your healing touch upon the land that is flooded. May the waters recede and the time of rebuilding begin. We will not forget them now or when the rains stop. Protect them especially the vulnerable. Watch over them. Amen.

Meditation Monday: Tradition

TraditionTraditionalism V. Tradition

“Tradition is the living faith of the dead, traditionalism is the dead faith of the living. And, I suppose I should add, it is traditionalism that gives tradition such a bad name.” Jaroslav Pelikan, The Vindication of Tradition: The 1983 Jefferson Lecture in the Humanities

Don’t brush off Spirit-inspired messages, but examine everything carefully and hang on to what is good. Avoid every kind of evil.  1 Thessalonians 5:20-22 (CEB)

People need tradition. We need them to navigate our way in the world. It lays the foundation for the future but it doesn’t dictate it. But there is a darker side to tradition that often can lead to death, especially with institutions.

Jaroslav Pelikan, scholar of the history of Christianity at Yale defines “traditionalism” as a way of life that kills the vibrant faith of believers. It takes itself too seriously And says there is only one way to do things even if the reason for it is now unknown. “But we’ve always done it that way” is a narrow point of view. Its followers turn inward and become insular with one another.

While tradition gives us a place to stand, it doesn’t anchor us to it. Tradition serves as a starting point. Tradition is constantly evolving as the generations following it add their flavor and understanding to it.

Let our faith be a living, growing faith! Let it be founded on the hope and dreams of those who have gone before us but always ready to expand its boundaries to do the work God has called us to do today.

Dear God, we are in need to a fresh anointing upon our traditions and faith. We want a living faith of the dead, not a dead faith of the living. As John Wesley wrote, “I continue to dream and pray about a revival of holiness in our day that moves forth in mission and creates authentic community in which each person can be unleashed through the empowerment of the Spirit to fulfill God’s creational intentions.”* Lord hear our prayer! Amen.

*John Wesley, How To Pray: The Best of John Wesley on Prayer