Monday, December 26, 2011
Tuesday, December 20, 2011
Wednesday, December 7, 2011
Monday, November 28, 2011
Sunday, November 20, 2011
Tuesday, November 15, 2011
Tuesday, November 8, 2011
Monday, October 31, 2011
Tuesday, October 25, 2011
Monday, October 17, 2011
Thursday, October 13, 2011
Monday, October 3, 2011
Tuesday, September 27, 2011
More information: www.umc-gbcs.org or http://www.epaumc.org/news/stories/dream-sabbath.
Monday, September 19, 2011
Tuesday, September 13, 2011
Saturday, September 10, 2011
Tuesday, August 23, 2011
Be it apathy, selfishness, thoughtlessness or prejudice, we regularly neglect people who need our help. The Old Testament reminds us not to withhold the wages of the worker when it is in our power to pay them. The same is true about the goods and services that we possess that God has given to us for the express purpose of answering someone’s prayers. These things are not only our left-overs but our means. There is always something we can give.
I read a story about an old woman who regularly sent a check to a missionary in China. It was not much but it was regular. The checks began to increase and she wrote to the missionary and explained how. She said she cut off her cable service and the money she saved she gave to the mission. The next month she cut off her phone and the month after that she cut off her hot water heater. The missionary was not a little bit encouraged by this fragrant offering of sacrifice.
What do you have in your hand right now that you can give away that would bless someone? Jesus said that we would be rewarded for even a cup of cold water that was given to someone in his name. Be the water of life for this world that suffers from so much want.
Jewish people have traditionally prayed three times a day. The Shacharit prayer is the longer morning prayer and the Maariv is the evening prayer. Mincha is the afternoon prayer and it is the shortest time of prayer and sometimes overlooked in the busy-ness of the day. Mincha is a short time to stop and give thanks. Psalm 145 is to be read during Mincha: “I will praise you, my God and King and always honor your name. I will praise you each day. You are wonderful, Lord, and you deserve all praise.” This psalm speaks of the wonders of God’s world and how God graciously provides for the needs of the world. “You satisfy the desires of all your worshipers and you come to save them when they ask for help.”
Sometimes in the middle of the day I don’t feel like singing. Work piles up and I begin to think it is me that is running my life. That is when I need Mincha the most. It is a time to stop and recalibrate my soul and put God once again in the center of everything and to give thanks for God’s gracious providing.
Try it yourself. Giving thanks to God lifts the soul to a higher place and assures us once again of the presence of power of our loving God.
Wednesday, July 27, 2011
The United Methodist committee on Relief (UMCOR) is planning a regional response to the growing hunger crisis in Somalia, Ethiopia, Kenya and Djibouti due to a severe drought. In Somalia, where relief efforts have been hampered by ongoing violence and war, has seen thousands of its citizens fleeing to neighboring Kenya and Ethiopia. It has been estimated that there are 400,000 people in refugee camps there. There are an estimated 3.7 million people in crisis.
Read more about the crisis on UMCOR's website: http://new.gbgm-umc.org/umcor/newsroom/releases/archives2011/hornofafrica/
Monday, July 18, 2011
Jesus said “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Soon and of the Holy Spirit and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you.” (Matthew 28:19-20a) Christian Education is fundamental to the Great Commission and yet it appears that we are doing less and less of it with our children as Sunday Schools are dwindling.
What is not working:
1) Sunday School on Sunday – often that is a time for soccer practice, a weekend visit to the non-custodial parent’s home, or the time of the Sunday School is earlier than many people want to get up on a weekend morning. Many churches are finding that an alternative day of the week is working better. An after-school program can include Christian education as part of its program.
2) Vacation Bible School as the one effort all year. Many churches that don’t have much of a children’s ministry will still offer a Vacation Bible School with some success. For many parents this is something for kids to do and some will actually shop around and go every VBS in town just to keep the children busy during the long summer months. Follow-up is what doesn’t always happen. Invite those “one time VBS students to other events throughout the year. I know of a church that has a VBS type program during the month of December on a Saturday so that parents can drop off their kids and go shopping. Holidays such as Halloween and Easter also have tremendous outreach potential. The lives of the saints and light and hope can be taught at a Halloween social and an Easter Egg hunt can be combined with a Lent Fair that teaches about the Jesus and the resurrection.
3) Expecting parents to bring their children to church. I remember years ago having a judgmental attitude about parents who just “dropped off their kids” and did not go to church or Sunday School themselves. Now people often don’t do even that. The response of the church should be one simple word: “Go”. We should go out and bring in the children. If you have room in your car you can pick up kids and bring them to church. Transportation is often the thing that keeps it from happening, especially in these hard economic times.
4) The same Sunday School teacher who has taught for 50 years continuing to teach that little class. We need to teach in teams. Our “Safe Sanctuary” policy requires that there are always two teachers in every class. The dear elderly woman in the church who has always taught the children needs to have a second helper. This is protection for everyone as well as a great way to mentor a young person for the future. Remember that every classroom needs to have doors with windows so that everything can be seen from the outside looking in.
5) Taking care of the children of our church members only. That has never been a good way of operating because it insulates the church as an institution that only “takes care of its own.” The church should intentionally target the children that are not from the church family and those who live on the margins of life. We need to invite children of all ethnicities, socio-economic backgrounds, languages and abilities. Families with children with disabilities need the unique ministry of the church. Autism is a high incidence disability in our society and parents often find it difficult to have a meaningful faith community experience because of the behavior issues that often accompany this condition. A church that would reach out with an educationally appropriate class would speak volumes of love to that family.
Sunday, July 3, 2011
Tuesday, June 14, 2011
We need to ask ourselves, “Why pray when you can worry,” because that is how we often live. It is truly a flaw in our human nature that finds us worrying instead of praying as our “default setting” in life. Isaiah 44:2 says “Thus says the Lord who made you, who formed you in the womb and will help you: DO NOT FEAR, O Jacob my servant!” But we worry anyway. We worry because our faith is weak and we live with the erroneous notion that everything depends on us. God made us and promises to help us. We are not alone, even when God’s timing is slower than we would like it to be, or the provision is less than we wanted. It takes faith to believe that the timing and the provision is exactly what God had in mind and that kind of faith moves mountains.
Last fall I received a phone call from a Congolese student at Salisbury University. She was the daughter of a UM pastor in the Congo. She was beginning her senior year and had high hopes for a bright future working in the Congo as a teacher when suddenly her tuition money disappeared. Family members who had promised to pay were unable to help and the university had no choice but to deport her. That is when the United Methodist Church stepped in and between the Women’s Division and the Board of Higher Education and Ministry her tuition was paid. She just graduated last month and she sent me an email to thank me for the efforts that were made on her behalf. Looking back she could see God’s hand at work, even in the last-minute way it all came together.Prayer is the greatest power on earth. It can change things, heal people, find money, and convert the world. Try praying instead of worry.
Wednesday, June 1, 2011
I thank God for the veterans who sacrificed and served and suffered for love of family, country and cause. May you spend some time this weekend pondering what is worth dying for in your life. Thank God for sending Jesus who loved us so much that he was willing to die for our sins.
Wednesday, May 18, 2011
Popular media is buzzing with a prediction that the end of the world is coming on October 21st and that May 21st will be the Day of Judgment and Christ’s return. The Bible teaches that no one knows the day or the hour that the Son of Man will come again (Matthew 24:36) so it would be unlikely that the prediction is true. However it is true that Christ will come again and he tells us to live like we are ready for his return at any time
I used to have a professor in college who would have pop-quizzes in woodwind class. That meant that at any time you could be called upon to play the chromatic scale on the clarinet and for every mistake you made your grade would go down by one letter. It was made all the worse because everyone in the class would be watching and no one knew who would be called on to play. Needless to say we all spent many hours practicing clarinet so to avoid the utter embarrassment of making mistakes.
Christ’s return is unpredictable like a pop quiz but so much more important. This is eternal life and God’s final judgment we’re talking about. Our own goodness counts for nothing in God’s grand plan. It is our trust in Jesus for the forgiveness of our sins that is the righteousness which will get us to heaven. So we need to be sure that we know Jesus and then live like him, walking in obedience to his commands. What was Christ’s main command? Love one another. Is that Simple? Not really. But that is the sign of Christ in our life.
So on May 21st spend the day showing the love of Christ to everyone you meet. The Jesus in you is the best advertisement we have for the truth of the Gospel in this world.
Monday, May 9, 2011
Recently at the Council of Bishops meeting in St. Simon’s Island, Georgia we heard testimony from Bishop Boni of the Cote D’Ivoire Annual Conference about the violence that was happening because of the civil unrest over the presidential election. The bishop recounted how for days there was continual bombing and shooting and everyone was in constant fear for their life. At one point gun men came into the church where people were hiding. The people had to keep very quiet so the gun men would not find them. Among the group of people hiding were many women with babies. The babies had to keep quiet or the gun men would know their whereabouts and shoot them. They prayed earnestly that the infants would keep silent while the soldiers were looking around the church. God answered their prayer and for two hours they made no noise. The soldiers left and no one was killed.
Another amazing part of the testimony was the “Voice of Hope” radio station that the United Methodist church continued broadcasting throughout the constant bombing. All other radio stations and phone lines had been cut but the UM radio station continued to play Christian music uninterrupted by God’s grace. The music and the encouraging word of scripture kept hope alive during this terrible ordeal. The bishop thanked everyone for the support of this radio station. It was indeed a voice of hope and it continues to air in Cote D’Ivoire as the unrest continues.
Please pray for our United Methodist sisters and brothers in Cote D’Ivoire. They have one of the largest churches in the world. Our UM presence is waging peace in the midst of war. Thanks to God for protecting Bishop Boni and his staff during this difficult time.
Tuesday, May 3, 2011
Jesus said in the Sermon on the Mount: “love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.” He went so far as to say if someone slaps you on the cheek to turn the other cheek. When Jesus was being arrested in the Garden of Gethsemane, Peter struck the servant of the high priest and cut off his ear. Jesus said “No more of this!”
The assassination of Osama Bin Laden is contrary to Christian teaching. He was our enemy. Did we pray for him? Was the act of killing him a sign of love? Obviously this is a very difficult position to take as it is radical. Christianity is radical, self sacrificing and counter cultural. Acting like Jesus is not popular. Osama Bin Laden committed terrible crimes against humanity. He should have been tried by an international court.
I believe that the assassination of Bin Laden will spur on a whole new wave of terrorism. This act surely has infuriated his followers and they will need to find a way to strike back. Violence breeds more violence and the cycle of death and revenge will continue indefinitely. How sad for the future innocent victims. Think how many innocent people have died in Iraq and Afghanistan since 9/11.
I believe this is a sad day with sadder times to come. Proverbs 24:17 reminds us “Do not rejoice when your enemy falls and do not let your heart be glad when he stumbles.” I pray for a day when we know in our hearts the futility of violence and the necessity of peace-making as our best Christian witness.
Thursday, April 28, 2011
Three weeks ago I attended a summit meeting of religious leaders known as the Religious Alliance Against Pornography. This interfaith group is working to educate religious organizations and the public at large about the widespread use of pornography in our society today. It also uses its corporate influence on matters of legal and public policy when appropriate. Members of this alliance are partnering with the National Coalition and iCare to educate people about how to protect themselves from pornography. With the advent of computers, internet, and many kinds of hand-held devices and cell phones pornography, sex trafficking and prostitution has become a multi-billion dollar industry around the world. Just about anything and everything is at the click of a mouse on a personal computer. Many innocent children and teens are being trapped into this culture.
If you have not already done so protect your home and church computers with filters and “smart limits.” Parents should study the kinds of protections that can be put on cell phones and video games. When you see pornography in stores or in the media use your voice to raise awareness and complain to managers and advertisers. Support international efforts to stop sex trafficking of young children and women. The United Methodist Women have many such programs. Speak to church groups and youth groups about the dangers of pornography. Get counseling and help for people with addictions to pornography. Above all else, pray for God’s grace to make a difference in this world by your pro-active witness.
For more info contact www.nationalcoailtion.org.
Resources from the General Board of Church and Society -
Sex and the Church — Pornography and sexual addiction
Prevention of the Use of Pornography in the Church (#2082, 2008 BOR)
United Methodist Web site on sexual ethics: www.umsexualethics.org
UMSE Bulletin: Monthly News, Events and Information on
Sexual Ethics for The United Methodist Church:
Sunday, April 17, 2011
The Jewish Passover celebration begins today (Monday). This is the ancient meal that was instituted by the children of Israel to remind them about their escape from slavery in Egypt. The word “seder” means “order” and this meal has an orderly progression of courses of foods and rituals, all of which recount God’s delivery of the Jews from the hand of the Pharaoh. The steps include: the blessing over the wine, the washing of the hands, the dipping of vegetables in salt water, the breaking of the matzahs (unleavened bread), the retelling of the story of exodus, the second washing of the hands, the blessings over the matzahs, the blessing of the bitter herb, the better herb and the charoset ( an apple-nut mixture) eaten on a matzah, the festive meal (which includes lamb), the eating of the last matzah, the grace after the meal, the Psalm of praise, and the closing statements.
In the closing statement the seder is declared complete and all wish that next year the seder might be observed in Jerusalem. This declaration means that they hope that the Messiah will come soon and allow all to celebrate next year in Jerusalem that has been rebuilt.
Christ instituted the Last Supper during a Passover meal on the night before his death. In this meal he brought fulfillment to the promise long ago that God would save people from their sins once and for all. As we observe Holy Thursday and Good Friday this week, may we not only look back at this story of redemption but also look forward to the day when everything is fully restored. Just as the Jews say “next year in Jerusalem” may we pray “next year may the Lord come again and restore all things and we will feast at Christ’s heavenly banquet.” May we prepare ourselves for that great day.
Tuesday, April 12, 2011
Back in March the news reported a case in which an air traffic controller at Reagan International Airport fell asleep on the job around midnight. Two commercial jets approaching the airport intending to land could not get a response from the tower. They even called on the phone and still no response. Luckily both flights landed safely. I think we are all grateful for that and that we were not on those two flights that night. Certainly this could have been a life-threatening situation.
I think all of us can think of a time when we fell asleep at the wrong time. I remember once I dozed off during a particularly long testimony at a funeral in the deaf church where I was serving as pastor. It was quite embarrassing to wake up, realizing everyone was waiting for me to get up and finish the funeral.
Jesus was praying in the Garden of Gethsemane on the night before his death. He asked three of his closest friends to pray with him but instead of praying they fell asleep. Three times they fell asleep during Jesus’ most agonizing moments with God. If they had stayed awake surely they could have been a comfort and a strength for Jesus.
We can fall asleep literally during important times and not so important times of life. But more subtle are times when we figuratively fall asleep by ignoring important issues of our faith. God is often like a jet pilot calling to us in the control deck of our life but we are rushing through our prayers, ignoring God’s warnings and leading and living as if we were asleep on the job.
What is our job? To love the Lord your God with all our heart, soul, mind and strength. To do anything other than that is to be asleep on the job. We only get one life to live and we need to be awake, alive and obedient to God’s direction for our life. What message is God calling to you? How is God trying to get your attention? Keep awake and focused on God’s will for your life, and you will never sleep through God’s plan for your life.
Monday, April 4, 2011
The Spirit of God unites people and religion divides people. This statement sums up what is happening in the world today when religion goes painfully wrong and people get hurt. How sad that Rev. Terry Jones decided to burn the Koran causing riots and death to innocent people from the UN. How sad that the Westboro Baptist church hurts so many people during their funeral protests. They do this as a way of making a statement against gay people in this country. When beliefs are such that the people holding those beliefs justify hurt and destruction then things have gone far from the holy intent of religion. We shake our heads in disgust and disbelief.
But do we not do the same thing when we reject and hurt people with our words over controversial issues that arise in our churches? When there are divisions and painful arguments in church over anything whatsoever we have convicted ourselves of hypocrisy. Paul says in I Corinthians 6:7-8 “The very fact that you have lawsuits among you means you have been completely defeated already. Why not rather be wronged? Why not rather be cheated? Instead you yourselves cheat and do wrong and you do this to your brothers.”
Instead of engaging in controversy and disagreement, put energy into doing the things that make for the unity of the body. The fruit of the Spirit gives love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. (Galatians 5:22). Peace and unity among people of faith is the greatest witness we have to the love of Christ in this world. How can you wage peace in turbulent times in your church? If we can’t do it here in our churches then we have no room to judge others stirring up controversy and pain in this world.
Tuesday, March 29, 2011
Long ago there lived and good and just king named Josiah. He was the king of Judah during the last years of its time as an independent kingdom. Josiah was a good king but his father before him had been a bad king. During the reign of his father, Amon, the Jewish people were worshiping the idols of foreign gods and did all the evil things that his father did. His father King Manasseh was even more evil. He worshiped idols, shed innocent blood, consulted mediums and wizards, burned his children as sacrifices and set up idols on the very altar of the temple.
Josiah became king at the age of 8 and the Book of II Kings compares him to King David. It says “Before him there was no king like him, who turned to the Lord with all his heart, with all his soul and with all his might, according to all the Law of Moses, nor did any like him arise after him.” (II Kings 23:25) When he was 18 he sent workers into the temple to renovate and to purge the house of God of all the foreign gods and evil practices. While they were fixing up the temple they uncovered the Law of Moses. It had not been read in years. When the law was read to the king he realized that God’s people were in serious trouble with God because of their years of idol worship. He tore his clothes and called for a national time of repentance and restoration.
He directed that all the people should come to the temple and hear the reading of the book of the covenant, he destroyed all the idols, he deposed the idolatrous priests, he broke down the houses of the male temple prostitutes. He even burned the bones of the people who had been idol-worshipers as a way of defiling the pagan altars.
He reinstituted the Passover celebration as well. Apparently the Jews had not been celebrating the Passover for a very long time. This was a feast that commemorated the exodus of the Jews from slavery in Egypt. It was the Passover that Jesus celebrated with his disciples the night before he was crucified.
Sometimes I think our churches are acting like the Jews before Josiah came along. For the most part we don’t take Holy Week services very seriously. We’ve forgotten who we are. Attendance at our Holy Thursday services are usually small and some churches don’t even have Good Friday services at all. This is a holy remembrance of the most important acts of Christ’s life and most of our church members stay home! This should not be. We go to Palm Sunday and Easter Sunday but skip the journey to the cross. Our churches should be just as full on Holy Thursday and Good Friday as they are on Easter.
I encourage you to be like Josiah. Put God first in your life. Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul and strength. Make the holy services a priority in your life. Put away the idols, the competing activities, and live for God only.
Tuesday, March 22, 2011
I learned today that the actor George Clooney contracted malaria while he was on a humanitarian trip to Africa recently. This apparently is not the first bout with malaria and he has been treated and is doing fine. This disease, which kills a child every 45 seconds on this earth is still a killer. However in the United States, where we have more money and superior health care resources people can take life-saving medications so they don’t have to die from malaria.
It is true of many diseases. Years ago people died from illnesses that today would be easily treated with antibiotics. In a new book entitled, How they Croaked, by Georgia Bragg, we read about the death of many famous people. Most of them could have been saved from it they had our modern medicines. King Henry VIII died from infection in his leg caused by gout. When I studied my family history I learned of a woman in the family who lived in the 1800’s who died in childbirth. A simple C-section would have saved her life and the life of the baby.
Here is the point: we know how to save people from dying from malaria. It is not just about nets. United Methodists have raised $16 million dollars for campaign known as “Nothing but Nets.” The nets prevent people from getting bit by the deadly night time mosquitoes that cause malaria. The new campaign: “Imagine No Malaria” takes things even further.Life-saving medicines and lab tests are part of the program. It also teaches people how to properly use the bed nets and how to avoid contact with mosquitoes. In addition it pays for research on mosquitoes and how to stop them from infecting people with this deadly disease.
No one has to die from malaria. Please raise funds for this continuing effort at your church.It is one of the Four Foci of the United Methodist Church. Then bring your church’s offering to Annual Conference or send it to your conference office.
We believe in making disciples of Jesus Christ and then going out and transforming the world. There are many people who die needlessly and we can make a difference by our generosity.
For more information, go to: www.imaginenomalaria.org.
Friday, March 18, 2011
I thank God for Patrick’s adversity that God used for good. As we face setbacks and troubles in life we need to remember this godly man’s experience and remember that “all things work together for good as we love God and are called according to God’s purpose.” (Romans 8:28)
Here are some words of Saint Patrick that we should pray every day:
I bind myself today, God’s power to guide me, God’s might to uphold me, God’s wisdom to reach me, God’s eye to watch over me, God’s ear to hear me, God’s Word to give me speech, God’s hand to guide me, God’s way to lie before me, God’s shield to shelter me, God’s host to secure me against the snares of demons, against the seduction of vices.
Friday, March 4, 2011
Elisha’s ministry was characterized by acts of social justice. He raised money for the pension fund for the widow of a dead prophet by multiplying oil, he changed polluted water into fresh water, he prayed for a childless woman to bear a son, later when that miracle-child, who was born to this woman, died, it was Elisha who raised him back to life, he removed poison from a pot of soup, he miraculously raised up an ax head from the water, he multiplied twelve loaves of bread into enough food for a hundred people, and he healed an army commander of leprosy.
One of Elisha’s most amazing deeds was to conquer an entire army. He did this with the disarming power of kindness. The king of the Aramean army sought to kill Elisha because he was able to predict his military maneuvers and tell them to the King of Israel. The Aramean army arrived at Elisha’s home with orders to kill him. He prayed to the Lord to strike the soldiers with temporary blindness. While they were blind he led them to the capital city of Israel (Samaria) where he restored their sight. The king of Israel saw the enemy army and exclaimed to Elisha, “Shall I kill them?” Elisha told him not to kill them but to give them food and water. This they did and after they feasted the army went home and there was peace between Israel and Aram from then on.
Having a double portion of Elijah’s spirit appears to me to manifest itself in acts of kindness, concern for the marginalized, helping the environment, feeding the hungry, showing compassion for one’s enemies and healing the sick. These are some of the basic ministries of a Christian and you don’t need to be a miracle-working prophet to do these things. God’s Spirit can lead you to places in your world where you can make peace. God’s Spirit can empower you to feed hungry people in your community. God’s Spirit can give you a heart for people who are left out of the things that make life meaningful. You can contribute to the Central Conference Pension Fund.
When you do these things it is evident that you too have a double portion of Elijah’s Spirit, which is the amazing Spirit of God.