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.

Monday Meditation – Still Small Voice

Still Small Voice

And after the earthquake a fire; but the Lord was not in the fire: and after the fire a still small voice.

And it was so, when Elijah heard it, that he wrapped his face in his mantle, and went out, and stood in the entering in of the cave. And, behold, there came a voice unto him, and said, What doest thou here, Elijah?  (I Kings 19: 12-13 KJV)

A lady running errands has gone viral.  Why?  Listen to her testimony.

This woman went to the grocery store and saw a homeless man trying to keep warm near the entrance.  When she saw the man, she heard the voice of Jesus telling her that the homeless man liked bananas.  She should buy some bananas for him.

The woman figured on her own that he would also need some protein so she bought him a couple of small nonperishable items as well.  She also wanted to buy him some fried chicken so that he could have some warm food in his belly.

Jesus told her not to buy the fried chicken that the man needed something for later.

The woman persisted in asking why she couldn’t get him some fried chicken.

Jesus said, “I don’t want you to get him fried chicken.”

Well the woman let it go and went to go pay for her groceries.  She separated out the things she had bought for him and took it to him, wishing him a “Merry Christmas and God bless you.”

A lady came up from behind her and said “This is your lucky day.  Here’s some fried chicken for you.” She then hands him the warm meal.

Lesson:  Listen to that still small voice pricking your soul.  Even when the Spirit says no, there’s a good reason.

Dear God, Still us enough to hear your voice not only when you say “yes” but also when you say “no.”  Though we know not the reason, let us still trust you and do what you do ask of us.  Amen.

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.

Civility & the lost art of listening

civility

P.M. Forni, in his book The Civility Solution, writes that in today’s America, incivility is on prominent display: in schools, where bullying is pervasive; in the workplace, where an increasing number are more stressed out by co-workers than their jobs; on the roads, where road rage maims and kills; in politics, where strident intolerance takes the place of earnest dialogue; and on the Web, where many check their inhibitions at the digital door.

The Civility of Conversation

Conversations and discussions no longer exist. It isn’t even about who is right or wrong. Both sides know they are right. It is not a question of changing anyone’s mind. How can conversation happen when people are “YELLING” at one another with slogans and epithets on TV, in their “status,” and in their “tweets”?

In Jeremiah 29:4 – 7 (NIV), God tells the Israelites to pray for Babylon, the empire they have been exiled to from Jerusalem. God doesn’t tell the Israelites to stop believing as they had when they were in their own land even though now they are in a pagan, gentile land with its own prophets and diviners that God calls deceivers. Now God commands them to pray for the city they have been brought to as the spoils of war – that, in fact, their prosperity was tied to the pagan city’s prosperity.

The Civility of Prayer

Can all the sides of the ideological divide, pray for each other to prosper? Can viewers of network news with opposing sides pray for those with a different opinion? Can opposing teams pray for each other on the field of play? Can people on both sides of any issue facing The United Methodist Church pray for each other? In I Peter 3:15b, the Apostle Peter tells the followers of Jesus “Whenever anyone asks you to speak of your hope, be ready to defend it.” (CEB)

The followers are then told they must “… do this with respectful humility, maintaining a good conscience.” (CEB)

In other words, talk – don’t yell. Be aware of your every word. Speak your truth. Listen. Comprehend.

The Council of Bishops of The United Methodist Church are in prayerful discernment about ways we can be in dialogue about issues that face the denomination. Can we all pray for one another and have the Holy spirit move in our actions and decision making?

To understand is not to condone. It is an act of humility to say, “I will put aside myself right now and respect you enough to listen to you.”

These acts of civility are things our Savior would surely do and appreciate us doing.

Meditation Monday: Dream Big

Dream Big

Glory to God, who is able to do far beyond all that we could ask or imagine by his power at work within us. Ephesians 3:20 (CEB)

Dream Big

We hear so much about declining membership rolls, shrinking budgets and older properties. It is at these times that we cannot get caught up in just “managing the demise” of our Church!

Now is the time for us to dream big…bigger than ever! It is time to think outside the box. It is time to hear all of God’s ideas, no matter how unusual, unorthodox, wide ranging or costly. As the writer of Ephesians reminds us, God can do infinitely more than we can ask or imagine. With God’s blessing our Church need not disappear by the year 2025 or 2030 or at all.

We must not think about it is as bringing God to the people but instead we need to join God where God is already present in the world. God is changing lives. Whether we are a part of that or not as The United Methodist Church is up to us and how big we can dream and truly dare to imagine the ways we can make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world.

God, show us where You are already working in this world. Show us how we can dream as big as You do! Help us to not get caught up in the fear but to remain positive in Your presence. Let us be more like Caleb and Joshua. 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?

Read more

Meditation Monday: Conflict In The Church

Conflict In The Church

Conflict In the Church

“Wherever two or more are gathered in my Name, I am there also.”

Often times this verse is used outside of its context. It is usually applied to validate worshipping together. However that is not the situation Jesus is talking about when and where he acknowledges God’s presence is manifest.

Verse twenty is an assurance given by Jesus to those who are in conflict with each other, those brothers and sisters who feel “sinned against.”

Before he reassures us, Jesus lays out a step by step method on how to interact with one another in struggle.

  1. Go directly to the person
  2. IF there is still conflict, bring along fellow believers.
  3. If that fails to resolve anything bring the matter before the whole church.
  4. If the issue persists, let go of that person’s sin.
  5. Know that God is with you from the beginning.

There are several assumptions this plan of Jesus’ makes.

  1. Conflict in the church will happen. Believers will hurt one another.
  2. People must approach one another with love.
  3. A reminder that we are not solitary beings but social creatures.
  4. Forgiveness can come even if you don’t get the apology you want.
  5. God is with us in the pain.

In the coming weeks let us guard in our hearts this message of reconciliation and love.

Dear God, while we may argue with one another, let us do so with positive affirmation and not from a place of hurt and competition. We are a community of people, each enmeshed with one another in a fabric woven by God. Even if we cannot reconcile our difference, we can still acknowledge the faith of one another and sit down to a meal together. And, God, thank you for being with us in the midst of conflict. Let us not forget to behave accordingly with grace and love. Amen.

Meditation Monday: Effective Communication

Effective Communication

I love the Lord, for he heard my voice;
he heard my cry for mercy.
Because he turned his ear to me,
I will call on him as long as I live. Psalm 116:1-2

Communication is so important. Our words and actions deliver messages all the time. Without effective communication, people are lost, even if there is a vision.

Read more

Meditation Monday: Love Thy Neighbor

Love Thy Neighbor

“Love thy neighbor” is a precept often found in Christian vernacular, but sometimes difficult to practice. There is an apocryphal story of a church in the mid-west, who had an atheist that attended church every Sunday. He helped out with regular church activities and when asked why an atheist would go to church he answered, “I like the people.”

Walk in wisdom toward outsiders, making the best use of the time.  Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person. Colossians 4:5-6 ESV

I suspect for the church the sentiment was the same, they liked him. Despite their deep differences, this atheist and this church were able to form community with one another. They saw beyond their differences to the fact that they were all human beings trying to find their way in this world. While they fundamentally disagreed on how to do that, they still loved one another.

Love Thy Neighbor

“… in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect, having a good conscience, so that, when you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ may be put to shame.” 1 Peter 3: 15-16 ESV

“Gracious,” “gentleness,” and “respect,” all words used by the biblical writers to help guide Christians in their dealings with those who don’t believe as they do. Certainly these words can also be used between Christians when we disagree over important matters.

Dear God, may the early church be our example in how we can disagree with those in and out of the faith. Help us to be gracious, gentle and respectful of one another because we are all your children. In your son’s name, Jesus Christ we pray, Amen.

Meditation Monday: Send Me

Martin Luther King, Jr. photographed by Marion S. Trikosko, 1964. LC-DIG-ppmsc-01269
Martin Luther King, Jr. photographed by Marion S. Trikosko, 1964. LC-DIG-ppmsc-01269

 

“Use me God. Show me how to take who I am, who I want to be and what I can do, and use it for a purpose greater than myself.” Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?” And I said, “Here am I. Send me!” Isaiah 6:8 NIV

Send Me

In the most difficult conversations, sometimes it is we who must step forward first to listen. It is easy being the one to talk–especially if there is any passion in the discussion. It is much harder to sit and listen to another’s zealous conversation on an issue without the thought of responding but solely to listen.

Read more