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.

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: Bread Of Life

Bread Of Life

I Am the Bread of Life

I have noticed in my travels that in nearly all cultures and even sub-cultures like the American South, bread is a staple in the diets of almost all people. It may take different forms and be called many things but it is in the final analysis bread.

How fitting is it that Jesus said in John 6:35 (CEB), “I am the bread of life.” Of all the food references he could have made, Jesus chose “bread,” not “meat,” not “vegetables” but “bread.”

Despite the warning against carbs and bread, it still remains a daily part of most people’s lives in a way that veggies and meat still do not. “Rice” rivals “bread” by sheer number in households, and even in places where “rice” is the main dish, there still exists “bread.”

When He says “I am the bread of life,” Jesus lands squarely in the middle of daily existence for nearly everyone. He is the sustainer of life, as long as you have bread and water you can hold out, but without one or the other life becomes very difficult. Like bread, Jesus is the very staple of a Christian’s life.

Bread will always be in our lives as human beings, despite all the carb warnings. It is too intrinsic to being human. Jesus too should always be in our lives. He is too intrinsic to being a Christian.

Dear God, Fill us with your amazing, sustaining bread. Let us take in your goodness for our soul. As you bring the rain and sun to grow the food for our stomachs, use the rain and sun in our lives to show us your comforting presence in the midst of our lives. For you alone are the holy one, the bread of life to our souls. Amen.

The Beloved Community

Community

Our goal is to create a beloved community and this will require a qualitative change in our souls as well as a quantitative change in our lives. Martin Luther King Jr.

Whoever isn’t against us is for us. I assure you that whoever gives you a cup of water to drink because you belong to Christ will certainly be rewarded. Mark 9:40-41 CEB

The question of who is in and who is out of the beloved community is one of the threads running throughout the gospel of Mark. What we find when we study Jesus in Mark is that those who are on the margins of society – the sick, the dying, the poor, the “unclean”, Gentiles, children, women, Galilean fisherman, prostitutes and the demon-possessed, are all at the center of the community. Always have been and always will be.

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Love Is Enough

Love Is Enough

Love Is Enough

A state legislator, trying to justify raffling off an assault rifle at a fundraiser, proclaimed, “You can’t combat this kind of hatred (mass shootings) with overwhelming love. There is only one way to combat this…that’s either to remove or neutralize these individuals.”

Yet being Christians, isn’t “overwhelming love” required of us, even with our enemies?

“You have heard that it was said, You must love your neighbor and hate your enemy. But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who harass you so that you will be acting as children of your Father who is in heaven. He makes the sun rise on both the evil and the good and sends rain on both the righteous and the unrighteous. If you love only those who love you, what reward do you have? Don’t even the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet only your brothers and sisters, what more are you doing? Don’t even the Gentiles do the same? Therefore, just as your heavenly Father is complete in showing love to everyone, so also you must be complete. Matthew 5:43-48 (CEB)

But is love enough? In a decade of mass shootings and suicide bombers, is love a powerful defense against self-hatred turned outward?

Love was never meant to be a “defense” against evil. Love has always been an offensive action against bigotry, anger and hurt. (Double entendre intended.)

As Jesus tells us in verse 44, love is an action as much as praying for your enemies is one. It is not a weapon. It is a verb.

Love IS Enough

So what does love do?

In a moment of violence love is the mother out with her son for a night of dancing, throwing herself in front of him taking the terrorist’s bullet. In another, love is a teacher shielding her students.

But love is at its most powerful before situations have deteriorated to the point of bloodshed. It is in the act of loving people continuously that we prevent them from becoming so filled with self-hatred that it spills over into hating others.

We must love these people who seem unlovable. It is in loving that we can combat violence and hatred. Love is enough.

This type of love is not a superficial love. We are talking about a deep visceral love that makes miracles happen. Not in some magical sort of way but like the love shown at other nonviolent protests that have taken place and changed the world. The kind of love that brings people together to become the beloved community, taking care of all God’s children. This is the kind of love all of us can exhibit towards each of us. This love is enough.

We must ask ourselves how we could have loved these people before they lost sight of their divinely inspired humanity. Perhaps if we can answer that question, the need for guns will be obsolete.

Should we try?

Meditation Monday: Pardons Not Badges

Pardons

When we became Christians, we didn’t get badges, we received pardons.

God so loved us that He became one of us. As Jesus was dying because of us, he asked forgiveness for us. He pardoned us.

Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they don’t know what they’re doing.” They drew lots as a way of dividing up his clothing. Luke 23:34 (CEB)

“Teacher, what is the greatest commandment in the Law?”

He replied, “You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your being, and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: You must love your neighbor as you love yourself. All the Law and the Prophets depend on these two commands.” Matthew 22:36-40 (CEB)

We need to love ourselves as God loves us. We need to love one another as ourselves. We need to love one another as God loves us.

God’s love shows up as grace, forgiveness, trust, excitement and righteousness. Can we do the same with one another?

God you command us to love others as ourselves. But sometimes we don’t love ourselves very well. But your first command is to love you. In loving you, we learn how to love ourselves as you love us. Help us to love each other as you love us with the perfect love you have given us. Perfection is the goal, but the journey to it is life. Amen.

Meditation Monday: Love and Trust

Love and Trust

There is so much distrust in the world. No one is given the benefit of the doubt. Intentions are selfish until proven otherwise. Everybody seems to be out for themselves. Everyone has an agenda.

This same level of distrust exists in the church as it seems to be in many institutions and organizations. People don’t trust their leaders. Leaders don’t trust their people. Evangelicals don’t trust Progressives. Progressives don’t trust Evangelicals. No one trusts the Moderates. Country churches distrust city churches. Small churches distrust larger churches.

Everyone’s motives are questionable, personal and surely not the will of God.

“I give you a new commandment: Love each other. Just as I have loved you, so you also must love each other. This is how everyone will know that you are my disciples, when you love each other.” John 13:34-35 (CEB)

Can love exist outside of trust? Can love exist inside of distrust?

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Meditation Monday: To Receive

Receive

We humans are generally “takers.” We “take” our turn. We “take” our next breath. We “take” over. We “take” charge.

“To take” is to do things alone. Taking is to get for ourselves. For example, if a person is holding out an apple to us, for us, what do we usually do? We take it from their hand. We typically grab it from above.

What if, instead of taking, we received the apple? We would place our hand below theirs. They give us the apple and we would receive it.

“To receive” is to do things in relationship. Receiving takes at least two entities.

What happens if we become “receivers?” Can we “receive” our turn? Can we “receive” our next breath as a blessing from God? Can we “receive” power from those willing to give it?

We can if we work together to be a blessing to one another, partners in love rather than enemies of opposition trying to wrest from each other what we want. Can we receive one another’s stories as we listen carefully and not take them out of context for our own needs?

What God Says About What It Means To Receive

Then he breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit.” John 20:22 CEB

We cannot take the Holy Spirit, only receive it.

From his fullness we have all received grace upon grace.” John1:16 CEB

We cannot take the grace of God, only receive it.

Let us be receivers and not takers. Let us be in relationship with one another and not solitary figures taking what we need.

God the giver of all good things, teach us how to receive and not take. Teach us how to give and also how to receive. Help us to hold each other accountable without judgment but with mercy and good intentions. All of us are learning our way to perfection. Amen.

Meditation Monday: Judas

Judas

Judas Iscariot, one of the Twelve, went to the chief priests to give Jesus up to them. When they heard it, they were delighted and promised to give him money. So he started looking for an opportunity to turn him in. Mark 14:10-11 (CEB)

JUDAS THE BETRAYER

Why would Jesus invite Judas to be his disciple knowing of his future betrayal? Because Judas always had the option of not betraying Jesus. He could experience Jesus’ love and come to understand what Jesus was trying to do for the Kingdom of God.

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