Tuesday, December 20, 2011
I have a suggestion for your resolution this year. It is something new for most of us. It will not take much time or sacrifice but it will dramatically change your life. It is simple and almost anyone can do it. In fact, if you are reading this, you are qualified to take part in a congregational resolution. I want for all of us to read the New Testament this year. There is a schedule in this newsletter to help guide you.
If you are conscientious to follow this program each day, by the end of the year you will have finished all 27 books of the New Testament. There are 260 chapters in the New Testament. That means that you will have to read less than one chapter each day. There are 7,956 verses and 138,020. Don't even ask me how many that would be each day. This seems like a very manageable challenge.
But I can already hear those who are hesitant. The resisters will argue, “I just don't have time to read the Bible.” I fully appreciate how busy people are these days. I am busier than I have ever been. But with around five minutes a day, reading the New Testament doesn't seem impossible to me. So let me give you some suggestions for getting your reading in.
Mute the television when the commercials come on and read your Bible then.
Do your daily ready while you are waiting in line at the BMV, the doctor's office or the WalMart checkout lane.
Set your alarm and get up five minutes earlier each day.
Give up reading People Magazine and devote that time to the Bible.
Do your reading while you are waiting for the movie, concert or ball game to start.
Do the daily reading as a family before anyone gets up from the supper table.
Take your Bible with you to work and read it on your lunch break.
Do your daily reading while in the restroom.
Read your Bible while waiting to pick your kids up at school.
You get the idea, right? In fact, I bet that you could come up with some suggestions of your own to accomplish this resolution. I am hoping that everyone will be reading the Bible in the New Year. I will be.
Thursday, December 15, 2011
- 4 Wheeler ATVs
- Liver and onions
Tuesday, December 13, 2011
- The church has more potential for good than any other entity in the world today. With current efforts to eradicate human trafficking, HIV/AIDS and to provide clean, safe water the church is doing more than almost anyone else. And that does not include hospitals and other health care facilities, homes for orphans, abused children and seniors and educational institutions in general. The church has done great good, and continues to do so.
- The church provides social interaction for millions of people around the world. The church is the place that many people (including me) met their mates or lifelong friends.
- The church is the custodian of the most important message in history. With all its faults (and there are many, but more of that later) there is no greater message than one of grace, acceptance and forgiveness for all people without regard for race, education, social status or financial resources.
- The church sometimes thinks it is more important than the message it teaches. Unfortunately, leaders in the church are sinful, fallen people. They sometimes become greedy for money, fame and power. It is easy for them (and often us, as well) to become consumed with maintaining power and gaining more of it. When this happens the church tends to push away the very people we are called to serve.
- There is too much conflict in the church. People with different political opinions or theological persuasions can be downright mean to one another. Everyone knows someone who has had their feelings too hurt by some Christian person.
- Elements of the church are definitely too judgmental of others. The Christian faith needs to be upheld by standards of belief, behavior and practice, but we should never use our 'church' as a club to beat others. It is common these days to hear people express their admiration for Jesus and Christianity but to be completely turned off by the church.
- Denominational differences can be used by God- they need not be a source of division and animosity. It is my belief that there are some people who will only be Christian if they can be Baptist, or Catholic, or Methodist, or Pentecostal... God uses these differences for his glory.
Monday, December 12, 2011
If our government limits itself too much, we will all suffer because of it. Anarchy will be the natural result of this. We must be wise in our calls for limited government.
Thursday, December 8, 2011
- It seems that as often as not, usually in the evenings, there is a group of loud and disrespectful teens. They are usually accompanied by loud swearing, obnoxious talk and inappropriate actions. They are in every town and almost every day.
- On most mornings you will find a group of retirees. This group is almost as noisy as the disrespectful teens, but much more polite. These men and women will be a cup of coffee at 8am and then leave several hours later. I have named them members of the "Golden Arches Social Club."
- There are also lonely and elderly people. These are people who live alone and for whatever reason don't participate in the retiree group. They are in a favorite restaurant almost every day, eating alone and smiling at strangers.
- At lunch time you can spot salesmen and other travelers. They make a pit stop with a day planner, a newspaper and a cell phone. They keep to themselves, but waste no time.
- On weekends it is not unusual to run into dads with their children for their weekend visits. You can find these most often at fast food establishments with playgrounds.
Monday, November 28, 2011
I am trying to do something different for Christmas this year. Oh, I will celebrate Christmas, certainly. I will sing carols and attend programs. I will buy gifts and decorate the house. I will go to parties and eat too much. I am going to celebrate in some of the traditional ways that I have always celebrated. But this year I am going to celebrate a little differently as well.
I think that a part of my problem is that all of those “traditions” of Christmas, at least the ones I mentioned, do not necessarily have anything to do with the birth of Jesus, the Messiah. And the birth of Jesus seems pretty important to me (duh!). So I want to focus on the things that will remind me of Jesus, God's son. I want to remember that God came into the world as human baby. He became the perfect gift, the ultimate sacrifice for you and me.
Now, I don't want you to misunderstand. I love Santa Claus, reindeer, the Grinch, Rudolph and my two front teeth. All of those parts of the holiday are great and I enjoy them as much as the next guy. But they don't help me worship. They don't lead me to Jesus. They don't alleviate any of my problems or take away any burdens. Only Jesus can do that.
On Sundays during Advent I will be focusing on what is being called the Advent Conspiracy. Each Sunday we will talk about a different element of what we might consider re-claiming the work of God in the Christmas holiday.
Give More. We are all tempted to give at Christmas time. But we should take care in our giving. We should give to people, but we should give gifts that are meaningful to us and to the recipient. We might think about the time it takes to give, or the sacrifice involved. Our gifts should maybe be more thoughtful.
Spend Less. Somewhere along the line we began to equate quality with money. I am an advocate of the idea that we can give great gifts, throw good parties and have the best Christmas ever without making a reservation for the poor farm.
Worship Fully. It is easy to relegate worship to a secondary priority on our list of holiday obligations. And even when we do worship, we are so busy and distracted by other obligations that we don't give our best to the Lord. The truth ought to be that we give him our best, our most, our all, especially in worship.
Love All. Often we think of our family and our community first. I think that's how it should be, but we also must be careful to not forget, nor neglect others, close to home and around the world. We should be giving and loving everyone- even those that we might think are unlovable.
Join me for an Advent Conspiracy. Let's celebrate Christmas as much as we can. And as hard as we can. And as thoroughly as we can. But this year let's also remember to celebrate Advent.
Saturday, November 19, 2011
Friday, November 4, 2011
- The Ides of March
- Midnight in Paris
- Winter's Bone
- Super 8
- Crazy, Stupid, Love
- 30 Minutes or Less
- Tree of Life
- Everything Must Go
- Win Win
- Jack Goes Boating
- Before the Devil Knows You're Dead
- Source Code
- The Book of Eli
- Tower Heist
- The Big Year
- Not Forgotten
Thursday, October 27, 2011
Evaluate and enhance the adult Sunday School program.
Should we focus on fellowship or learning?
Should our classes be lecture or discussion based?
Should we encourage student participation, or allow for anonymity?
Personal Discipleship should be emphasized and planned.
Bible Reading Program for 2012
Lenten Prayer Experiment
Hire (initially on a temporary-basis) a children's director/ youth intern.
The position would start January 15, 2012.
Children's Director would work with Children's Council, Kid's Club, etc.
Provide Practical resources for community members.
Financial planning and budgeting classes/ seminars
Life planning and life coaching.
Job skills assistance (including, job search, resume writing, etc.)
Parenting skills assistance
Establish a Sermon work group. This group would assist the SPRC and pastor by,
Assisting with research for sermon topics and series.
Assisting in planning upcoming sermons and series.
Discussing and offering feedback for sermons.
Plan a Confirmation Class with confirmation on Palm Sunday, 2012.
Plan a new members class for early 2012.
Establish a pastoral visitation plan.
Offer parishioners an opportunity to invite the pastor to their homes.
Sign-ups will begin in November 2011.
Day and night time visits will be available.
Re-visit the Church Mission Statement.
Continue to renew the emphasis on youth ministry.
Continue to work with the Finance Committee to address and solve the financial shortfalls that are currently causing us difficulty.
Monday, October 24, 2011
I have recently been writing about the 'mid-life crisis' that occurred near my 40th birthday. Mine was not the normal 'rage against aging' that you hear so much about. I didn't dye my hair, buy a sports car or even run around on my wife. I felt a very distinct call from God to invest the rest of my life in valuable, kingdom-building, life-affirming activities. I believe that I have been called to spend the rest of my life changing the world.
Although I love both of those things, the thing that excites me the most is the third calling that God gave to me seven years ago. God called me to 'raise up leadership in and for the church, particularly among young people.' There are a lot of implications to that little saying.
Raising up leadership means that;
We remind people of the importance of leadership and encourage people to answer the call of God in that way.
We must not only identify leaders, but we must also train, equip, deploy and support leaders with our love, prayers and resources.
We must never view ministry, or the church, as a personal kingdom that belongs to us alone. It is God's. He is the master of it. It is God who will call and inspire others to carry on the ministry.
We cannot be offended when someone else hears God's voice in a way different from how we hear it.
A big part of this call is the church. I believe that the instrument that God has chosen to use to reach the world during our time, is the church. There are many para-church and other organizations that serve the purposes of God's Kingdom, but I am called to the church. My longing is for the church to be built up, enlarged and multiplied.
Finally, I am called to raise up young people.
Because of that, I will spend time ministering to children, teens and young adults.
I need to develop relationships with young people in the church and outside of the church.
The key to ministry to (and with) young people is investing time. We live in a world that wants to trade money for time at almost every turn. But there is no substitute for time with our youth.
I am committed to this ministry. You should be too. Together we can change the world by creating an environment that welcomes, values, encourages and trains our young people to do the work of ministry.
Monday, September 26, 2011
- She has shown me unconditional love at every point in my life. She does not get fatigued loving me. She has never "turned off her switch."
- She has modeled for me what it means to live a life of integrity. I have never had any reason to believe that my mom's actions were anything less than absolutely pure.
- Mom has taught to be to be a "bleeding heart." Because of her I am always interested in the needs, concerns and attitudes of others.
- Mom reproduced her deep faith in me. I am a Christian man today because my mother was a Christian woman before I was born. I followed her example and have never been sorry.
- She has been the best mother I could ask for. She gave me her attention when I needed and left me alone when I needed that. She gave me just enough rope at every turn. I am sure that she made mistakes, but I am hard-pressed to think of any.
- She was a great influence on my father. He was in love with her and willing to change to make her happy. Because of my mom, my dad settled down, became a man of faith, a good husband and a great father.
Sunday, September 25, 2011
Last month I wrote about my “mid-life crisis” when I turned 40. At that time I asked God to reveal to me what I should be doing with the rest of my life. I am very concerned that I do not waste my time, my energy, or the gifts that God gave to me. I want to be found worthy of God's call on my life and to do his work with all my heart.
To that end, God gave me the mission to do three things with the rest of my life. I wrote about the first of those last month, “Renewing worship in the church.” Today, let's turn to the second part of this renewed call; “Teaching the Bible and instilling a love for God's Word in God's people.”
A big part of what I have devoted my life too is learning God's word. I read the Bible every day. I have made a commitment to read it through at least once each year for the rest of my life. I regularly read books about the Bible. I take classes and listen to sermons on the Bible. I am resolved to base my sermons, lessons and writings on God's Word. It will be the basis from which I orient my priorities in living, teaching and planning for the future.
This is all true partly because,
The Bible is the best place to get information on how to live in God's will. Without a foundation source, we cannot really know what God wants, or how to measure ourselves.
The Bible comes to us as the actual, revealed Word of God. God has spoken to us so that we can know his ways, his works and his will.
The more we know and study the Bible, the more we will want to know and study God's word. Knowing about the Bible causes us to want to know more about the Bible. Reading His word, makes us want to study it more. We will learn that we can never know too much Biblical information. God's word is addictive, in a good way.
The Bible reveals to us how we can grow in our faith. There are too many Christians who struggle just to maintain their faith experience. Many more have no clue how to experience the abundant life that Jesus promises (John 10.10). To grow in your faith, spend time with God studying his Word.
I promise you, that to the best of my ability, I will teach you what God teaches in the Scriptures. I will challenge you to read, study and meditate on the Bible so that you can experience God in new ways. How about joining me on this journey into God's Word?
Sunday, September 18, 2011
- Pauline Welsh (Othermom). This is the woman who made it possible for me to be a Christian. She prayed for me. She loved me. She still serves as an inspiration and pattern for my faith and life. Her affection for me knew no limits or conditions. She taught me to love others and to love God in the same way.
- Abraham Lincoln. Lincoln was our greatest president. (I will have a conversation about this one, but I guarantee that you cannot convince me otherwise.) He stood up to those who opposed him, even to the point of death. He was not afraid to keep trying, even in the face of disappointment and defeat. He cared more for the union of our country than he did for political expediency or popularity. (Today's politicians would do well to learn some of those lessons.
- CS Lewis. I am a great fan of Lewis because of his writing, but that is not all. He was a thinker. He evaluated all options before making decisions, but was not afraid to make the right choice, even if it meant reversing an earlier position.
- Thomas Jefferson. Washington and Franklin get all of the attention, but it was Jefferson that made America happen. A brilliant thinker, Jefferson was a renaissance man long after the renaissance. Although his attitudes and personal life make him politically incorrect today, we should honor him as a great man in American history.
- John Wesley. Not only was Wesley the founder of Methodism, he was a tireless organizer, leader and preacher. His movement continues to be one of the most important Christian groups in the world. Wesley influence goes beyond his churches to protestants around the world.
Thursday, September 8, 2011
- Jimmy Carter. Although his presidency was less than what most of us would have desired, since leaving the White House he has become the standard by which all former-presidents will be measured. Almost always without regard to partisan politics he has fought disease and oppression throughout the world. He advocates for peace, for dignity for all and for free and fair elections in all societies. His Carter Center is an international force for good; his work with Habitat for Humanity is well-know; and he is unafraid to speak out about his faith.
- Billy Graham. Often referred to as a spiritual adviser to world leaders, including several US Presidents, he is much more than that. Graham has shared the message of Jesus with more people than any other individual- ever. He is consistent, filled with integrity, humble and completely ethical. The world is a better place because of Billy Graham and the example that he has set for religious leaders of all stripes throughout the world.
- Jeff Newton. Jeff is a pastor, but more than that. He was serving a comfortable church as a pastor, when he heard the calling to leave that setting to take up ministry in an inner-city setting. He left security, for insecurity. He put the Kingdom of God, and ministry to others above his own comfort, or desires. Jeff continues to serve the least of these as he works to feed, clothe, inspire and educate the poor in his community.
- Dewey Miller (not me). My dad has served as an example for me for my whole life. He loves his family and lives for them. He has always been one to come to the aid of his children and grandchildren. There has never been a request too great for him. He has been steadfast in his commitments, loving in his example and filled with integrity in his relationships. I want to be like him.
Sunday, September 4, 2011
- Let go and let God.
- Wise men still seek him.
- Jesus is the reason for the season.
Tuesday, August 30, 2011
September 18 may be the greatest Sunday of 2011 for those of us who call
There are many people who have left church. There are some who never were a part of our congregation, or any other. Many of us have loved ones, friends and family members who do not know Jesus. Back to Church Sunday is for all of those people.
On September 18 there are many exciting things happening. We are going to have a great attendance goal for worship. This goal will be announced in worship on September 4. Additionally, Pastor Dewey will begin a series of sermons entitled, “How to…” The first sermon, taken from Genesis 3.1-7, is called, “How to Sin.”
As it happens, Back to Church Sunday falls on the same day as our Sunday School Grand Re-Opening. There will be classes for all children. The Nursery will be staffed and there will be a pre-school class, as well as classes for Kindergarten- 2nd Grade, and 3rd-5th Grades. Pastor Dewey will be leading a special, six week Sunday School class for adults that will study the New Testament. This class is called, “Things You Didn’t Learn in Sunday School.” This class is designed for people who currently do not attend a Sunday School class, but all are welcome.
Monday, August 29, 2011
When I turned 40 years old (it was several years ago) I had what could be considered a mid-life crisis. I didn’t have an affair, use drugs, start a rock band or buy a sports car. I didn’t get overly ambitious or dangerously slothful. I am pretty unusual, so I prayed. I knew that my life-expectancy ought to be around 80 years. That meant that at 40, I was half way finished with this world. I prayed about what I should be doing with the rest of my life.
I believe that the Lord gave me three answers. There are three things that I am supposed to do with the rest of my life. Everything I do, propose, think about or support should lead toward the accomplishment of one or more of these three things. None of my three things are especially unique or special; they are just the things that God is calling me to do. So, part one of my life’s calling is:
I am to facilitate a renewal in worship in my congregation, and in the
Let me explain this briefly. Often we think of worship as a set of practices that we participate in at a prescribed time (Sunday morning) and place (a church building). Although I agree with that definition, it does not go nearly far enough. Worship cannot be contained in our traditional ways of thinking.
- We need to view worship as a relationship, rather than an event. Worship is not what happens for an hour on Sunday morning, it is a lifetime of speaking to and listening to God. It is an ongoing conversation throughout the week, and throughout our lifetimes.
- We need to think of worship not in terms of style, but substance. There are many people who get worked up about the type of music, style of prayer, etc in the worship service. But God is not limited to our stylistic preferences. He can speak to us in hymns, gospel songs, choral anthems or even hip-hop.
- We need to remember that worship is something that happens (or does not happen) based on our attitudes. When we worship we must be prepared to meet God, not thinking about how we are fulfilling some sort of obligation. If our priority is our Sunday afternoon tee time, then worship on Sunday morning will be more difficult.
- We need to think of worship as an experience rather than an obligation. We don’t “have to” worship, we “get to” meet with God.
It will take some adjustment, but renewal in worship is possible, and preferable.
Tuesday, July 5, 2011
Saturday, June 25, 2011
Behold, I will do a new thing, now it shall spring forth; shall you not know it? Isaiah 43.19
There are new things happening all around us. Many people have just graduated from High School or College. There are others that are getting married during these summer months. We are celebrating the birthday of our country, which represents a new year to appreciate our freedom.
But there is one other “new thing” that is definitely going to affect my family more than any of these. In fact, most of you reading this will also be more affected by the fact that you have a new pastor than the other new things. It goes without saying that there are things for us all to learn and adjust to, but here are some of the new things that we can celebrate and anticipate together.
- We can all (perhaps, especially me) look forward to learning, stretching and changing in many ways. I am coming to Argos from a two-point charge. That means that for the last ten years I have been the pastor of two churches. Both of those churches are smaller than Argos UMC. Here is where we stretch. I have to learn to be a pastor in a larger church. Likewise, you will have to put up (at least initially) with my “country boy ways.”
- We can look forward to some awkward times of change and growth. I am thinking of this as a courtship. We have to get to know each other. I know that there are things that I will want to do differently than you are used to. I need to learn your traditions and stories. We will have to be patient with one another as we learn to get along.
- We should anticipate God working in our ministry together. I have learned to expect God to work in wonderful, marvelous and uncomfortable ways. He has asked me to do things that I have never wanted to do. Together we should plan on God pushing us to places that we have not been before and asking us to do things that will change us for eternity.
- We should expect God to change lives. I am planning on seeing God at work in Argos United Methodist Church. I know that he wants to be involved in our “new thing” together. I believe that I will grow in my relationship with him, that many people will begin new journeys of faith with Jesus and all of us will be challenged and transformed by his presence.
2 Corinthians 5.17 says, “If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation.” I am excited to see who Jesus is going to make new in our church. God will call someone into full-time ministry. Many people will be called to deeper levels of commitment, faithfulness and life in Christ. I can’t wait to see who will become a new creation.
God is infinitely creative. He is always making things new. I am looking forward to seeing what happens next.
Monday, May 23, 2011
- All Hail the Power of Jesus Name (I love all three tunes)
- Great is Thy Faithfulness
- Holy, Holy, Holy
- Amazing Grace
- Christ the Lord is Risen Today
- The Solid Rock
- O, For a Thousand Tongues to Sing
- Joyful, Joyful We Adore Thee
Tuesday, May 17, 2011
Much has been made of the final words of people, particularly famous people. John Adams, for example, said, “Thomas Jefferson still lives.” Except that Jefferson died the same day- July 4, 1826. Others have not had such famous last words on earth, but are remembered for things they said upon leaving. Douglas MacArthur promised, “I shall return,” as he left the Philippines. The classic film, Casablanca, ends with Humphrey Bogart’s character, Rick, saying, “I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship.
And so now I am facing the prospect of offering some final words. However, I am sure that I have nothing new, original or especially profound. We have loved living in Howe and serving the church Howe and Pretty Prairie United Methodist Churches. You are great people and we love you. But the opportunities for saying things to you all are dwindling now. There are a few sermons left, there are some conversations, but this is the last article. Let me offer to you some basic, foundational words that you will be familiar with by now. In the coming years, I encourage you to practice the Four Most Important Things.
1. Bible Study. Spend time reading God’s word. Study it. Memorize it. Read about it. Discuss it. Time spent with God in his word will never be wasted time. Get to know God in a new way. We are currently in the midst of a one-year campaign to read the New Testament, Psalms and Proverbs. I hope that you will not stop just because I am not here to remind you.
2. Prayer. Learn to devote time to God. Talk to him. Listen to what he has to say. Ask advice. Request help. Get to know God in new ways. You will find if you spend time with God, you will always have enough time. He will make the time productive and a blessing to you, every time.
3. Fellowship. Learn to enjoy the company of other Christians. Spend time with the people who love God. They will support you in your faith and walk with God. You can support them in their times of trial and difficulty. Together the people of God can stand against temptation and become powerful instruments of God’s grace and healing.
4. Ministry. Always remember that following Christ is not the end of the line. We are to study, prayer and fellowship to know the Lord, but the result of all these things is that we reach out to and care for those inside and outside the body of Christ. In a very real sense we are the hands and feet of God on earth.
One more thing- the United Methodists who worship at Howe and Pretty Prairie churches have a great opportunity coming up. The United Methodist Church is organized as a “connectional” system. One way that this works is for us to demonstrate the value of our connection. Our churches do not have to struggle and search for leadership. Our new pastor will arrive next month. We know that Jean Ness is competent, trained, educated and experienced in all areas that will make her an effective pastor. By receiving her, sharing in her ministry and caring for her family we demonstrate to the world, and to ourselves, that we serve a great God who is bigger than our differences and changes that the world may consider to be insurmountable.
God bless you all.
Wednesday, April 27, 2011
There are some things that we Christians all share in common. We all believe that Jesus is the Son of God that God created the earth and that prayer is an effective mode of communication with the Almighty. There are also some things that are not observed universally in the church. Each denomination, each arm of the church has particular emphases or doctrines that we hold. For example, we United Methodists are in the Wesleyan- Arminian theological segment of the protestant church. This means that we believe that all people are given the ability by God to choose their own destiny. Calvinists, on the other hand, believe that our destiny is determined before hand by God. This is often called “predestination.” We are still in the same part of the Christian tradition, but this is a significant distinction.
Another area of similarity in the church is the Christian Calendar, or the Christian Year. Orthodox Christians, those who live and worship in the East, celebrate holy days on a different schedule than western Christians do. That is one difference. Another is that evangelical, Pentecostal and independent churches tend to observe only certain parts of the Christian Calendar.
For mainline churches, United Methodists, Presbyterians, American Baptists, Episcopalians, Lutherans, Disciples of Christ and United Church of Christ members, there is more to the Christian Year.
The Year begins with Advent and the celebration of the coming of Christ. For four weeks we prepare for the birth of Christ and at Christmas we share in and celebrate the birth. Epiphany is celebrated each year on January 6. It is a celebration of the visit of the kings to the baby Jesus. You will notice that there are twelve days (of Christmas) between Christmas day and Epiphany.
Following Epiphany is a season that we call Ordinary Time. This is a prelude to Lent which begins on Ash Wednesday. For 40 days, not counting Sundays, Good Friday or Maundy Thursday, Christians reflect on their lives, make sacrifices for the sake of Christ and prepare for the resurrection on Easter Sunday. The Easter season continues for seven weeks until it culminates with the celebration of Pentecost. On Pentecost we remember the coming of the Holy Spirit in Acts 2. After Pentecost we return to ordinary time. There are other days that are special within ordinary time, like All Saints Day. All Saints Day is the first Sunday in November.
There are other things about the Christian Year that you should note:
- Thanksgiving is not a Christian holy day. It is essentially a secular observance to remember the grace and providence of God.
- There is a schedule of Scripture readings that coincide with the church year. The lectionary has four readings for each day.
- There are also colors to represent the seasons and days of the Christian year.
It is good for Christians to know and celebrate the times and seasons of the church year. By doing so, we will enhance our celebration of holy days and be reminded of all the works of God.
Tuesday, March 29, 2011
Monday, March 28, 2011
- When I visit churches that are not my own church, I feel most welcomed in African-American congregations (even though I am often the only Caucasian present.
- Christians, in general, love to reach to others as long as they come to church and it takes minimal effort on our part.
- We love to welcome people who look like us, think like us and behave like us.
- We love to be friendly to people in our own social and financial circles.
- Most people love it if you are friendly and welcoming to them.
- There are the elderly who have been forgotten by family and who have out-lived their friends. They are waiting for you and I to be friendly to them.
- There are the homeless, poor and drug addicts who feel as though no one gives them a chance. We should be willing to be open to them. Welcome and care for all types of people.
- There are young people who feel alienated and ignored by their elders. We ought to treat young people as for real humans, not as children who need our constant protection, oversight and rules.
- There are people who look different that we do. We should be open and accepting of all the people who are children of God.
Friday, March 25, 2011
The news is out, but we have several weeks to go. You have no doubt heard by now that the Millers (and the Martins and Permans) are leaving Howe at the end of June. We will begin a new chapter of our ministry lives on July 1 at Argos United Methodist Church. At that time you will get a new pastor as well. I am sure by the time you read this you (and I) will know who the next pastor will be. We should all start praying for that person right away. We should pray that the transition would be easy, that the new pastor will love the people of Howe and Pretty Prairie, and that both congregations will embrace him/her.
In the mean time, I would like to reflect a little, and dream about what the future might hold for all of us.
To begin with, we have experienced a lot as a family here. Molly started and finished middle school. She started and finished high school. She started college. Molly also went to her proms, got her driver’s license and performed in the school musical. Life was pretty good for Molly in LaGrange County. Shannon worked in two different jobs that she really loved- the current one she hates to give up. She had surgery to remove ovarian cancer. I struggled with gout and had skin cancer. But we both have felt that the community of Howe and the congregations of Howe and Pretty Prairie were perfect for us.
In ministry we have had tremendous success through the years. At Pretty Prairie we have repaired all the windows, re-oriented and replaced the porch/ front steps, built a ramp, re-roofed the church, installed central air-conditioning, fixed the issues with the bell tower and built a lovely home for the bell. At Howe we have upgraded and replaced our sound system, got a new organ, remodeled the restrooms and put a new roof on the church. But none of those items are ministries.
We have not lacked in ministry, though. We have had several years of very positive ministry with Kid’s Club. We have housed and then sponsored the only pre-school in Howe. The Coconut Hut has become one of the outstanding outreaches of our churches. We have had great music programs. One of our members has entered the ministry. Several members of both churches have completed Lay Speaker’s training. We have provided worship services monthly at Life Care Center. We are very involved in ministries with our cluster group at Pioneer Estates, in worship and in Mission Possible. We connected with Master’s Commission. Both churches have supported- and participated in- missions in Uganda and Jamaica, among other places. Our churches are the primary support of Wesley School in Uganda, and the only support of Kanyike Joseph. We have done great things, and God willing we will continue to do great things for God.
So what does the future look like? Who can really know? I think it looks good for both churches, and for our family. Everyone gets a new, fresh start. We get a clean slate. And that’s what the Christian faith is all about. We get to start new ministries, breathe new life into old ones and to continue the work that God has given us. New lives will be won to Christ and others will grow in faith. More people will be called into ministry and God will be glorified.
We will miss Howe and Pretty Prairie. We will always hold our time here as a blessed period in our lives. We are looking forward to a new kind of relationship with folks who have been parishioners, but will now be fondly thought of as friends. We will always be praying for you. And we hope that there is kindness in your hearts toward us, and that you will be praying for the Millers.
Saturday, March 12, 2011
- Secular music
- Reading anything but the Bible
- Pop/Soda/ carbonated soft-drinks
- Chocolate- especially those Cadbury and Reese's Eggs
Wednesday, March 9, 2011
- Ash Wednesday begins the Christian season of Lent.
- Lent is the 40 days that precede Easter, excluding Sundays. Sundays are not included because they are little celebrations of Easter itself.
- We celebrate Lent for 40 days because of the 40 days that Jesus was tempted in the wilderness. He fasted and confronted Satan for that time period.
- Ashes are imposed on the first day of Lent to symbolize the mourning that we have when dealing with death. "We are ashes, and to ashes we will return."
- The ashes are obtained by burning the palms from the previous year's Palm Sunday worship service.
- Giving up things. Many of the traditions of Lent have to do with sacrificing or fasting certain items. Some people give up chocolate, or meat, or pop. We do need to make sacrifices to begin to understand Christ and his gift to us.
- Giving up. There are things that you are doing in your life that you need to stop. You need to give up, to surrender. God wants something better for your life.
- Giving up control. One of the great paradoxes of the Christian faith is that humans long to be independent and in control. Following Christ, however, requires that he be in control of our lives.
- Giving. To be truly Christian we must be gracious and generous, welcoming and loving to all people. That means that we should be open, that we should share and that we should contribute as often as we can.
- Forgiving. We have all been hurt or taken for granted. For Lent this year we should all focus on those who have wronged or taken advantage of us. After all, our bitterness only hurts us.
Monday, March 7, 2011
Thursday, March 3, 2011
- The divorce rate in America is profanely too high.
- Pornography is ruining lives, relationships and communities in epidemic proportions.
- Prostitution is more widespread than anyone, including law enforcement personnel, is aware.
- Cosmetic surgery, fashion, diets and makeup are all HUGE industries in our country.
- Promiscuity, in all its forms, is rampant in every community.
- Pop culture is consumed with the latest scandal involving Britney, Lindsay or Charlie.
- To begin with, we American humans are focusing almost exclusively on external stimuli. We do not see the inside of Britney, only how her external parts excite and titillate us. Very few people (maybe no one) know who she really is. And sadly, most of us do not care. We choose our favorite movies on the basis of who the stars are. We might choose our mate based on the way they look or how they make us feel. This is most unfortunate.
- Although we are initially attracted to others based on appearance, often we do not get beyond that surface impression. The value of another person is only the aesthetic of external beauty. When my wife no longer turns me on, we conclude, she is no longer of any value to me.
- A consequence of this appearance-driven ethic is that we developed warped ideas about our own value. We feel as though we are less important when we are less attractive. We get uncomfortable when people are interested in our internal stuff. Life gets complicated below the surface. Self esteem and self confidence are harder when they have to do with attitudes, opinions, values, personality and beliefs more than the way we look.
- Looking at someone and appreciating their beauty, although a worthwhile endeavor, should never take the place of knowing someone and caring for their person.
- My value is not based on what someone else thinks of me, or even the way I look. My value is based on God's love for me, and my ability to know and be myself, the way God intended.
Monday, February 28, 2011
Thursday, February 17, 2011
The sacraments are very tricky in the church. Some denominations celebrate, or recognize different sacraments than others do. There are some groups that do not refer to them as sacraments at all. They prefer to call them “ordinances.” This somehow provides some distance between the current celebration of the acts and the traditional approach to them. My personal feeling is that this is a way to provide some emotional distance from the Catholic aspects of the sacraments.
Since I am a United Methodist, and I serve in a thoroughly United Methodist context, my comments should not be construed as normative for all people, groups or times. I am sharing my thoughts on the sacraments, nothing more.
United Methodists recognize only two sacraments, baptism and Holy Communion. There are groups that would include as many as seven sacraments. Those churches also recognize things like “last rites,” matrimony and confirmation. All of these are valid representations of elements of worship, but for me they do not meet the criteria for sacrament. There are two specific requirements for a sacrament:
- Its observance is commanded by Jesus. As far as I can tell, baptism and communion are the only ones that meet this requirement.
- It is an outward sign of the inward work of the grace of God.
When we celebrate baptism, we are not just symbolically getting wet and remembering what Jesus did. We are experiencing the grace of God. God is at work in the act of baptism. Our obedience to his Word activates the miracle power of God. When we eat and drink in communion, we are not receiving elements to remind us of God’s work, we are experiencing the work of God itself.
Remember that receiving the sacraments is not optional. Jesus instructed us to do these things. When we are baptized, we are obeying God (Matthew 28.19). When we eat the Lord’s Supper we are fulfilling God’s will (Luke 22.19).
One more thing: There is some controversy surrounding the frequency of celebrating the sacraments. People want to have communion less often than they do, and be baptized more often than they are. John Wesley believed that every time believers are together they should have communion. I see no reason to think that this is not a good and workable arrangement. It is not necessarily true that increased frequency of communion would diminish the significance of its meaning. We should eat at the Lord’s Table often.
As to baptism, we would do well to consider the words of Scripture. Ephesians 4.5 makes it clear that there is only one baptism. This essentially means that we receive God’s grace when we are baptized and that being “re-baptized” would be a questioning of God’s power. It is completely possible, however, that a person may desire to renew commitments that were made at her/his baptism. This could even be done with water, either in a sprinkling or immersion experience. This is not a repudiation of the grace of God, but rather a celebration of it.
Monday, February 7, 2011
Wednesday, February 2, 2011
However, there were emotional scars. That is why she wanted to talk. I shared with her how Jesus knows all about the terrible things that happen to us, that we see and that we hear. I got to pray with my McDonald's friend in Pizza Hut that day. What a great day it was.
Monday, January 24, 2011
Wednesday, January 19, 2011
The Christian church is generally a positive, accepting, open, hopeful place for people of all sorts. Occasionally we come across a person or a situation that gives us pause. We hear isolated stories of conflict in churches. But for the most part, it seems that Christian people can get along with one another, and be a generally positive influence on the community at large. However, in every generation it seems that there are church divisions of the style of worship.
This conflict is usually confined to musical styles- hymns vs. modern praise and worship, southern gospel vs. classical, casual vs. formal- but there is a lot more to the controversy than that. Usually we are committed to one style of music or the other based solely on our personal preference. We need to get over this. God is bigger than our favorite style of music. In fact, I bet that God can even work through a rap song.
It is important, though, that we realize what really goes into worship.
· Prayers- We pray in worship because it is the most basic form of communication between God and humanity. There are invocations- prayers that invite God’s presence, benedictions- prayers of blessing for God’s people, pastoral prayers and unison prayers. All of these are historically significant and very current and beneficial for us today.
· Music- There is no end to the variety of music for worship. There are instrumental numbers that help us to meditate and focus on God. There are also performance numbers by soloists and choirs that are designed to inspire, inform and enlighten us. All of these assist us as come to God.
· Scripture- We read the Bible because it is the Word of God, and it is the basis for all that we believe and do. It serves as a reminder of who we are in Christ.
· Creeds- We share our beliefs with one another. There are a number of creeds that we might recite or sing.
· Sacraments- Although there are several activities that might qualify as sacraments, in most churches we recognize at least baptism and Holy Communion. These sacraments are important because they are ordained by God. Jesus instructed us to do these things. We experience them in worship because Jesus commanded us to do them and their power is increased when we do them together.
Of course, there is a lot more to worship than this. There are questions about who worship is directed to, or what our responsibility is in worship. But we should always know that at its most basic, worship is being with God. When we worship, let’s set aside our differences and our expectations and help one another experience the presence of the Almighty.