Friday, December 3, 2010

What Methodists believe: Our Doctrinal Distinctive

As Methodist pastor in two small Oklahoma towns that are very Baptist dominated I often hear the question, “What does the Methodist religion believe.” At first, I’m always shocked that these, most likely Baptist and Pentecostal something’s, see Methodism as a separate religion from their own. At that moment I would love to be able to point them to pages 43 and 44 of the current United Methodist Discipline and enlighten them to the fact that we, though we are not Baptist, are Christian too. I was actually asked one time if we were “like those Ja-hovahs (miss spelled to emphasis accent) Witnesses”. I’m not sure how that person arrived at such a conclusion, but obviously there is some confusion about what a Methodist is and what a Methodist is not. I also get asked, “are ya’ll like them Catholics?” Which I really don’t mind being held in that light and I often say “sort of” to a question like that, but with all the confusion and questions I began to offer a course on “What We Believe” at both my little church. At one church I use Bishop Job’s “Three Simple Rules” and at the other church I use Bishop Willimon’s “What We Believe”. Both are great resources by the way. One document I use at both churches is the Book of Discipline, because nothing better articulates the distinctiveness of a Methodist than our Discipline.

If I were to have perspective member ask, “What’s different about Methodist”, which I have had happen…a lot! I would to discuss the emphases that we have on grace and the three stages, or degrees of grace believers go through. I would explain that Methodist believe in God’s preventing grace which is afforded to all and allows us to say and believe that Jesus is Lord. Preventing grace is “the divine love that surrounds all humanity and that proceeds any and all of our conscious impulses”.[1] This is grace that prompts our first desire to please God almighty. Next I would have to explain our belief in God's justifying grace. I would explain that Methodist believes that “God reaches out to the repentant believer in justifying grace with acceptance and pardoning love.”[2] This grace is what allows us to be restored to right relationship with God and humanity. Next I believe it would be essential to discuss and explain the most distinct of our beliefs, which is the final degree of grace, entire sanctification and perfection. It’s important that the perspective member understand that “we hold that the wonder of God’s acceptance and pardon does not end God’s saving work, but continues to nurture our growth in grace. “[3] Methodist believe that through grace we can be made perfect, that we can have such an understanding of God’s love for us and others that our hearts can be habitually filled with love towards God and neighbor (Mark 12:30-31). Now this only scratches the surface of what we believe, but I also consider this view of grace to be the most distinctive belief and doctrine our church holds. Of course I would follow this up with our emphasis on faith and good works as well as our emphasis on mission and service, but what well meaning Christian Church would not affirm those things as important parts of our faith. Methodist are unique because we believe that grace is ultimately what saves us, not works, not even faith, but grace, the grace received through the Lord Jesus Christ.

[1] Book of Discipline of the United Methodist Church (Nashville: The United Methodist Publishing House, 2008), 46

[2] BOD 2008, 46

[3] BOD 2008, 47

Monday, November 8, 2010

Breathe of God

I recently read an article by Brent Peterson, who is a Nazarene Theologian, and who teaches Worship Instruction and Liturgy at the Nazarene Theological Seminary in the Mid-West. He had the most interesting perspective of worship for the church I have ever heard. He states that "Once a week God breathes in the church (inhales), He gathers his breathe, for instruction, proclamation and an encounter with the risen Christ (the Eucharist)....only to breathe out (exhale) the church into the world to be Christ broken body and spilled blood for the redemption and salvation of humanity." For me this is beautiful image that relates God to humanity in and organic way....that is inhaling and exhaling, inhaling and exhaling...literally breathing...we become the breathe of God to the world.

Genesis tells us that God created humanity and then gave humanity animation by breathing on the man and the woman. God's breathe is ultimately what gives us life and it is what seperates us from the animals. The patristics believed that this was the image of God...God's humanity. The church is the life of the world, the church is the literal body of Christ and it is only through Christ we can be saved, that the world will be saved. I believe we have a great responsibility to the world as Christ body an we cannot fully be Christ Body without gathering for public worship.

So many people today who refer to themselves as Christians are really what John Wesley referd to as "Almost Christians". There is a list of things that make up the "almost christian" but the one I want to address is those who do not attend public worship services. In order for the believer to be prepared to be breathed out as life giving air and not the kind of air that comes out of a bag of potato chips when it's first opened, they must attend the life giving gathering of the saints.

In worship the believer encounters the risen Christ, first through the proclamation of the Word and then through the Eucharist (Christ is both...word as proclamation and word and sacrament). This is my case for the regular celebration of the Eucharist, of Holy communion, because we need to not only hear the word, but receive it, ingest it, consume it, have it to dwell in us and since we're not going to start eating the pages out of our the bibles anytime soon, the only way to do this is through the Eucharist. Communion is a sacrament, not an ordinance. An ordinance is a "rule" that must be observed in order to remain in good standing the authority...that is, its a law. A Sacrament is an is humanites encounter with the divine...that is, it's grace.

It is impossible to be the life giving breathe of God without a weekly dose of God, with out a weekly encounter with the divine. So to all those "Christians" out there who say....I go to Church on TV...I watch Joel Osteen....or I watch Joyce Meyers on are "almost Christian"...keep trying, keep seeking and pursuing salvation...I bet you'll find it at your local community of faith. Oh...and I suggest the United Methodist Church...I really love what they believe.

Grace and Peace,

Monday, October 4, 2010

A More Excellent Way of Life

I recently read an article by Dana Hicks who is a Nazarene pastor and Professor of Missional Leadership at Northwest Nazarene University. In the article, entitled "Evangelism in a Post Modern Matrix" Hicks proposes two questions that we as Christians ought to be asking the post-modern "non-believer" or "un-reached", "under-churched", "over-churched" or "under committed"....pick your catch phrase....person in our culture. These two question came to him after realizing the the current questions, the questions that have been used by us "evangelical" types over the past century, were not applicable anymore. You know the questions... "if you were to die today, do you know were you would spend eternity?" or "If you died today and God asked you 'why should I let you into my heaven' what would you tell him"...those questions. He states that he, like many other good Nazeren's had the questions memorized and the answer as well, but he also states that "deep down when I asked those questions I felt like I was saying something pretty much like, What will it take me to get you into this car today". So do any of you reading this recognize the feeling? I do.

I grew up in the Assemblies of God (Pentecostal), were these questions were asked to everyone, every time we got together for worship. They were expected to be asked by good faith members to their friends and family and really there is nothing wrong with these questions, they are valid and they are pertinent questions, especially if you believe that Jesus Christ is the way to heaven, but they're just not that relevent anymore, at lest according to Hick...and I agree.

For much of our existence as a species we have been confronted by death, death was simply just part of life and we were around it. Our domesticated animals died, our crops died, grandma died...and we were there for it. Now according to Hicks "we live in a society that sterilizes death and removes us from the experience." I agree, the first time I saw a dead body I was almost 13 and it was my grandmother, up until that point I can't remember even seeing our family dog die, I know he died because my parents told me so, but I did experience it.

Death a part of our life...still, but not as real as it was for the generations past. The questions Hicks says we ought to be asking those we hope to bring into the faith are questions about life, "what are you going to do with your life", "what do you want your life to be about"....those questions matter to a generation that wants religion to be real and relevant, faith that actually does something other than providing "fire insuerence" and faith that is righteous, not self-righteous.

What we really ought to ask, is "If you could know what God is doing in the world today, would you want to be part of it?" or maybe "If you knew you were going to live another 40 years what kind of person would you want to be?" These are the questions that matter, the questions that challenge us to be proactive world changers, the ones who really do make God's kingdom come in our communities. I can't imagine anyone ever saying no to the first question, and I can't imagine anyone not seriously considering the second. People want to know God and they want to be part of God's plan...and I believe this post-modern generation really wants to make a difference. The 20th century approach to faith is not acceptable to post-moderns. That is, a faith that equates to moralism. What will call this generation to Christ is a faith that will challenge our society, or culture, our politicians...a faith that is personal and communal, a faith that seeks the answers to the questions that pertain to why are we here, not so much as to where are we going.

My current favorite bible passage is found in I Corinthians, were St. Paul is discussing the gifts of the spirit and he is explaining how all those gifts amount to nothing without love, and he tells the Corinthians "strive for the greater gift (which is love), and I will show you a more excellent way of living". That is awesome!!! The faith we have to share with a non-believer or un-reached, under-reached, under-churched, over-churched person is a faith that not only leads to eternal life with God, but also leads us to and in "a more excellent way of life".

Monday, September 13, 2010

To smell like sheep

Ahh!!! September at last:) I love the fall, I love the return to school, the "cooler" weather, and we are one month closer to the start of hockey season!!! This fall is a bit different than the past two falls. The past two years have meant the return to seminary and the return to being gone half the week from my family. This fall I've decided to try something different. I am taking the semester off! I can't say at this point that I even miss seminary, I do miss my friends and some...some of the professors :), but I don't miss being away from my wife, my sons and my people.

Interesting enough, at lest to me, I have grown to love the people at both Beggs UMC and Schulter UMC in away I didn't expect to. Not that I didn't think I would "love" them and "shepherd" them in a reasonable way, but I did not expect to "fall" in love with them and this community. I am beyond thankful, beyond honored to serve this community and these very precious people and faith community. I have seen more converts...real life transformed people...not "say this prayer with me and you'll be saved from hell fire and damnation" converts, but peoples lives radically changed as a result of and encounter with the risen Christ.

Taking this semester off is about my self, it's about my family, but it's also about caring for and bring in the kingdom of God. I've learned the most valuable lesson from pastoring these two communites, a lesson not taught in Seminary. I have learned to be a shepherd, I have learned...I have just scraped the top of learning that is... of what it means to have the kind of heart that would leave the 99 to save the 1. I am convinced that the M.Div ought to be a secondary qualification for ordained ministry, the primary qualification should be love for sheep.

The past two falls, I've grieved over being away from my family but this year I was grieving being away from both of my families, my wife and kids and my church. I have never been more certain of my call to shepherd God's people than I am now.

"Lord thank you for the people in my life, thank you for the call in my life, thank you for the meaning in my life."

Grace and Peace,

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

The cost of knowledge....and more

Well here it is....only two and a half weeks to go before school starts!!! I must admit I am very excited! I am always excited for the beginning of a school year and more recently I am even more excited because it means peace and quite around my house, but that's excitement aimed at the children's school starting...I'm talking about my seminary classes. I began the seminary process feeling so overwhelmed. I looked at the degree plan that was handed to me the day of new student orientation almost two years ago and saw 9o credit hours and almost felt helpless!! I thought, "I'll never get through all this", but really it has gone by so fast it all seems a little surreal.

I must admit, when I began the process seminary was a means to an end. I had already been in ministry since I was 20 (I'm 30 now), I pastored my first church by the time I was 22 and I was ordained at 23, I felt like the old man of church :). I had already completed two degrees in Bible and Theology and had co-written a book with one of my Bible College professors. I thought, "what could I possibly gain from the church forcing me to spend 60,000 dollars to re-learn things I have already dealt with?" Well, two years later that is not the case. I would not trade one moment of my experience at seminary for anything, that is how valuable it has been to me.

I did "re-learn" a lot of things, but in a deeper and more meaningful way. I also learned a lot of new things, that helped me answer a lot of questions I had a bout my faith. For example, I was once a staunch and devote conservative and fundamentalist serving in the Assemblies of God. I believed without question all of what was taught to me over the years. Then I left the A/G and joined the Christian Church (DOC),(of which I was ordained in 2003) this is a much more progressive church. The drastic change caused some what of a theological void in my life, a void I could not fill because my faith had become so "heady". At St. Paul I learned about the mystics, I learned about the Wesleyan way of understanding faith and scripture, I learned that I could be and evangelical without being a fundamentalist, I learned how to reconcile the mysteries of our faith, without them having to be proven, after all they are "mysteries".

I am convinced that a seminary education, at lest one at theologically moderate and/or evangelical seminary, is invaluable to a pastor. I could not imagine having to have this great responsiblity as a pastor without a seminary education. Now thats not to say that some are called to minister, to preach and to even serve as ordained clergy...yes even as ordained elders...without it, but for me it was just that important.

Now this brings me to the point of all this. Earlier in this blog I commented on the $6o,000 of debt that will be incurred by me and many of my classmates over the course of 3-5 years in seminary. That is an astronomical load of debt for someone who will be, at most, making $41,000 dollars a year once they have completed the degree. I think that's a shame, and I think that this is one of the factors contributing to the decline of our church. Mark Beeson, who is a UM pastor in Indiana asks the question "how do we grow again?" Mark is a good way...of many of the "practices" of the Church and the cost of seminary issue is one of them. I think that is the question all of us should be asking, but I also think one of the answers is, elimnate seminary indebtedness. How can we expect our youngest and brightest to be fully missional if they can't go were they are needed because of financial needs? This leads to the discussion of guaranteed appointments, minimum compensation, apportionment's, and general agencies, all of these things are leading factors in the churches inability to be missional and apostolic, but we're only talking about seminary debt :).

Now, every UM pastor, before he or she is commissioned is asked a series of questions before they are approved by the executive clergy session at Annual Conference. One of those questions is "are you debt as to embarrass yourself or the church?" I suspect a little tongue and cheek when the newly graduated seminary students answer "no" (they have to in order to be approved).

In our Church we have whats called a Local Pastor. An LP is a full or part time clergy person (non-ordained) given the authority to do pastoral ministry and rites, but who normally does not have a seminary degree. Statisticly they are more effective as pastors that Elders are, why....I'm not sure, I have some thoughts though. Perhaps it's because they are able to serve in area's that otherwise would not get a pastor, perhaps it's because they don't have the weight of $60,000 over their heads, perhaps it's because they are not "guaranteed" an appointment, and have to prove their effectiveness for ministry every year to their superiors....but wait we're just talking about seminary :).

I love, absolutely love sits so right with my heart. I love it's history, it's theology, it's anthropology (in a theological context of course)....I simply just get it. I want our church to grow, I want the Methodist church in every town to be the biggest church in town. I am deeply saddened by our decline and want to do my part to keep it from happening. I think it all starts with a reevaluation on how we train, prepare and deploy our shepherds. I want our church to be missional, with the express purpose of useing the local church to reach the lost, but the local church needs a shepherd, a shepherd who is competent and free to do ministry that works in her community.

Grace and Peace,

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Some thougts on faith, hunger, and health

I have man in one of my churches who is actively involved in the health care debate, especially in my home state of Oklahoma. He shared some very somber statistics about health care and health care out comes here in OK. The majority of patience under 21 and over 65 seen by doctors in Oklahoma are on Medicaid/Medicare. The rates at which doctors in Oklahoma are paid for their services by Sooner Care (Oklahoma Medicaid/Medicare) is only about 80% of their costs. There is no Sooner Care available for people between the ages of 21 and 65 and 40% of them are uninsured. The only access they have to health care is the ER, a bill which they will most likely not be able to pay and a bill that will amount to loss for the provider. There were 9 million unduplicated visits to the ER last year in Oklahoma and of those visits the providers were able to recover approximately 70% of the costs. Oklahoma has the worst health care outcomes of any state in the Union, we have the sickest work force and the largest amount of adults with mental health issues. Some might say Oklahoma needs hope...hope for a better health care system, hope for a healthier generation to come, hope for...tomorrow. I respectfully disagree.

Hope is a useless emotion that is unreliable, unattainable and unpredictable by itself. I know this all sounds very discouraging, but it's true, hope does absolutely nothing to change anyone's situation permanently. Sure it might makes us feel good for a while, it might bring us up out of a state of sadness or depression, but as far as actually changing just doesn't! Who has ever accomplished anything simply by hoping it would change? Hope alone is a cool breeze, a drink of ice cold water on a hot day...hope only refreshes it does not change the situation. What is needed in a situation like this and what is needed in our world and in our culture is faith. Faith changes things, it is by faith that people enter into difficult situations and complicated issues and see change, it is faith that moves, faith that builds, and faith that transforms. I believe that if the Christians in Oklahoma and the rest of the U.S acted in faith towards the health care issue than there would be change, people would be covered and have access to health care.

Health care is not a stand alone issue. Faith can change any situation. Hunger is another problem he have in Oklahoma, not just malnutrition hunger issues, but over nutrition hunger issues caused by poor education on food choices and the fact that it is expensive to eat right. Poverty is a major issue in our state and with poverty normally comes nutrition problems. Some people can not afford food and are literally hungry, others can only afford cheap, inexpensive food choices or whatever they find at the local food pantry....which is normally beans, pasta, and sodium filled canned veggies and meat...high calories, carbs, and salt...this is a recipe for obesity. Faith can end hunger as well. Faith in Christ can provide opportunities for those who are less fortunate to have what they need to be healthy, there is no excuse in our country to have people without access to acute health care and healthy food choices, there is simply just to much wealth for this to happen, but I suppose one could say that "there is to much wealth, that is why this happens."

Hebrews 11 is the "faith" chapter in the New Testament. It is full of examples of people who acted in faith and it transformed them into new people. There faith actions were not easy, they were frightening, confusing, and difficult, but that's what faith does. Faith transforms us and our world because it challenges us to be something other that what we are. Faith should cause us to be uncomfortable, it should cause us to step out into the unknown, it should cause us to "love our neighbor as ourselves." and if I have access to acute and preventive health care, good food choices, and education...shouldn't my neighbor?

Back to faith....earlier I said hope was useless, but that hope also has it's place, it's important to have hope, but we cannot root ourselves in hope, we must be rooted in faith. You know what the main difference between hope and faith is....proof. We can prove that some has faith, we can prove faith by whats been transformed. We cannot prove hope, hope is a dream, hope is an ideal thought, something that looks good on paper....."Hope Floats"....while "Faith Sinks" sinks deep into our souls, it roots itself in our very being and transforms who and what we are....this is why we are justified through faith, because faith changes our relationships, especially our relationship with God, but it should also change our relationship with humanity.

I hope your faith challenges you. I hope it is transforming you and is causing you some distress. I hope your faith is justifying you towards God and towards humanity, bring you back into right relationship with both. In his weekly podcast from this week, Leonard Sweet says "Faith transforms, while hope adorns." Don't just look like you've changed, but become changed.

Grace and Peace.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Sacred space

As I was growing up in the Assemblies of God I remember two terms that divided my life right down the middle, in fact it created a sort of dualism of cultures in my life. The terms were "Christian" and "Secular". Christian was everything that was explicitly religious, the music I listened to, the movies I watched, the books I read, even the sports hero's I cheered for. Secular did the same thing for "non-religious" things I did. There was two of everything, secular movies, Christian movies...secular music, Christian music, and it serious as well. I had a Youth Pastor that was so serious about abstinence from "secular" music that he encouraged all of us, especially the newly "converted" to depart from all their worldly ways and break all non- christian CD's, DVD's, and VHS tapes as well as all cassette tapes (we still used them way back then :). I threw out hundreds of dollars worth of CD's because of this position or doctrine or whatever you want to call it. My wife tells a story about her Youth Pastor (she grew up Assemblies of God as well) doing the same, but he also told her that a way she could minister to the youth group was to join a Music Club, like BMG, and purchase Christian CD's for those who just got "saved" that might not have any. PRAISE HIM!!! :) My wife worked for every penny she had growing up, she bought her own car, her own food, her own close, and her mother even made her pay some of the utility bills...she had no extra money to do "ministry" (at lest like that).

I just recently spent a week at Mount St. Scholastica Monastery in Atchison, KS with the Benedictine Sisters. It was a wonderful experience, I learned and grew and experienced so much. One thing we did was some spiritual growth and development exercises like Lectio Davina and Spiritual Direction. We talked a lot about sacredness and what was sacred and what made something sacred and it confirmed something that I had, in the words of Sister Michaela, "been chewing on in the deepest parts of my soul." It's this notion that all that fundamentalist "speak" that has to do with "secular" and "christian", or in my words, "secular" and sacred".....things, like music, movies, magazines, authors and so false! Joseph Bankard, who is a professor at Nazarene Theological Seminary says "these categories are artificial because they don't refer to anything real." Anything real? The point is that the division between secular and sacred is fake. The distinction between the two really goes against the belief in an omnipresent God whom we are made in the image of. If God is truly everywhere all at once this would mean that there is sacred tendencies in everything, and if we are made in God's image...I believe that we are and that God's image is "fractured" in us, not gone, or "totally depraved" like some would say....than God is in each of us, in one way or another. Even the most selfish, hateful and murderous person in the whole world has done something nice, something that smacks of the fruits of the Spirit, which are love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, gentleness, faith and self-control. Even Hitler did something kind....once, even Timothy McVeigh showed someone, even Osama Bin Laden as exercised some point. The point is, everything and everyone has some sacredness, so why the division, whats with the false distinction, why create a sub-culture where Christians have their own Wood-Stock, their own rock-stars, their sports hero's and even their own politicians.

The distinct is simply a result and product of the is the exclusion, they... us... them.. the we/ they of the human condition. I believe that Christ calls us to embrace each other, to go beyond "tolerance" even, and come to understanding. The line separating what is considered secular from what is considered sacred becomes blurred, at best, when we really take a close look at our world and what we profess to believe as Christians. The challenge for believers is to recognize the sacredness in every situation and especially in every person. No more exclusion, only embrace. It's funny, for some, God seems to hate all the same people they do...the truth is God loves everyone and God is saving all of humanity through the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ.

Friday, June 18, 2010

The New Model

I spent much of my "church life" as a pentecostal and was blessed to have found such a witness to the grace, glory and love of God through Jesus Christ as the Methodist Church. Sounds like a commercial spot, right? Well it could be and ought to be, but instead of it being done by "starving, no talent actors", it should be done by sincere, moved and transformed Christians who have found a relevant meaningful and purposeful gospel that makes sense to us "post-moderners." I have recently been reading a book that was published by the Nazarene Church publishing house and that was heavily contributed to by Nazarene's...oh and one little unknown Methodist dude, named Len Sweet :). The book is entitled "Post Modern and Wesley"...intriguing, right? It was to me!! From the moment I picked this little book up I could not set it down. For me, this book put some skin and muscle tissue on the skeleton of what I have been feeling about our churches post-modern witness, or lack there of. The truth is the world has changed, but the churches approach to how it reaches the world has not. The church is using modern techniques to try to effectively reach the world in a post-modern era. So the big question is...where do we go from here? I mean, if your paying any attention at all to main-line protestantism you will see that what we're doing is not working, it is in fact, broken. What actually needs to be done is that church needs a new model for doing church. I recently spoke with a friend of mine, who is a priest in the Episcopal church and she also believes that some "new model" must be formulated in order to reach a post-modern world, but she admits she has no idea what that looks like and neither do most church leaders. We all have been doing what we do for so long, there just isn't any other way to do it, or at lest that's what we think. The new model, the model that will reach post-moderns can best be demonstrated in the natural order of things.

Scientist have proven that in nature order comes from within not from without. Order in nature is born out of what we would perceive as chaos. This is called chaos theory. In quantum physics there is this thing called a "strange attractor". A strange attractor is a sub atomic particle that moves in what seems to be random order, but in it's chaotic and random movements it creates something that is ordered. I saw a diagram of this in a book I recently read called "Leadership and the New Science." This one small sub atomic particle moved and moved across a computer screen and created a three winged bird!!

The key to reaching postmodernist is Holy Spirit Leadership. How do I derive this from quantum physics? Well nature is often the best reveler of God's plan. Len Sweet says that "truth is green and black" meaning that truth is found in the black ink of scripture, but it is also found in the "green" of nature. The Holy Spirit moves and often we do not understand its movement, but we trust that in this not-understood and sometimes chaotic movement of God's Spirit...God is creating and re-creating in and through us. If we are to reach postmoderners we much take on a new model that listens to the movements of the Holy Spirit, we must embrace what is organic in a community, what is natural, the church must return to it's grass roots and stop confusing the mission with the institution.

As a Methodist, I value structure and organization, but I see it only as a tool for the purpose of building the kingdom, not as the kingdom it's self. The church must reconsider what works and what does not, we must do as Lovett Weems suggest... "live on the edges", the edges of what once worked and what will work. I belive that Wesleyanism and the new Anglican Churches such as The Anglican Church in North America that have been formed out of the "chaos" of the Episcopal Church are moving in away that will allow the Holy Spirit to be their Strange Attractor and create new life out of it all. I'll finish with this story... The most transforming and reforming moment of my Christian life came after our fallout with the Pentecostal church. We were so burned out and hurt from our experience in that church that we were about to give up on church all together. Then we came into contact with an Anglican/Episcopal Priest who invited us to come and receive "Eucharist" that night. we went, not sure what Eucharist was, but we went and we met Christ maybe even for the first time. When I went down front for communion and that wafer touched my tongue I felt forgiven, I felt alive, even born again, for the very first time!!! That was a transformation.... out of chaos and uncertainty, out of what was not typical for me came the creation of beauty from God's Holy Spirit. I finally gave up on what I thought God was and what I thought church should look like and that's when God moved the most. Join me and others as we continue to seek out truth and meaning and the way to connect the gospel to this post-modern world.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Do good, do no harm and stay in Love with God

Greetings!!! This is my very first post on my very first blog site! I going to use this site to attempt to inform, challenge and renew the the minds of those seeking to be in right relationship with God.

When I was young I was a member of a pentecostal denomination, I went to one of this "fellowships" Universities, and even became a minister in this fellowship, but about three short years ago I felt that I was no longer a very good fit for this fellowship and moved on. I found a home in a church, in a town in Oklahoma...the farthest place I expected to find what I was searching for. I found the First United Methodist Church. I didn't know much about the people called Methodist. I know my grandparents were life long Methodist and that my father was still a member of the Methodist Church in the town that both he and I grew up in, but I never attended. The little bit I knew about Methodism was that a man name John Wesley was it's founder and that we was important to "us" as Pentecostals because "we" grew out of Wesleyan principals of holiness and sanctification, but other than that, I didn't know much.

We joined that faith community in that town we lived in and shortly afterward I was hired to be the youth director...what I didn't know about Methodism, I was about to find out very quickly. I learned about PPRC, UMPH, UMW, UMM, UMYF and all the other local church acronyms. I learned about Church Council, Charge Conference and Annual Conference. Shortly after that I was introduced to more acronyms because I felt God calling me into Ordered ministry as an Elder, acronyms like DCoM, BOoM, and GBHEM. That fall I entered seminary and learned one more very important acronym...MEF...which is were the money to attend seminary comes from :).

It was a blitz of polity and procedural things that I learned in that short year. I also learned about the episcopacy, the superintendency, and the itinerantcy, terms that are very important for Methodist Clergy to be aware of. :) Now it may sound like I didn't learn anything spiritual during that first year, but I did, I learned three simple rules to following God and leading a holy life. All that stuff and all the great doctrines and theology that make up the Methodist Church and all that complicated polity...all of it really is summed up in three simple rules, that Father Wesley himself invented for the early Methodist... These three rules will ensure that any Christian keep the faith and remain in right relationship with God and other people. Three rules, three simple rules, Do good, do no harm and stay in love with God.

If your doing good, your helping people, your giving to charity, your being selfless and living a redeemed life with God and man. If you are doing good, than you are not doing any harm. Make sure that every choice you make harms little to no one or thing. Do not harm each other with words, actions and even thoughts and do not harm our plant by being a poor steward of our natural resources. Finally stay in love with God. How can we remain in love with God? Wesley said attend upon the means of grace, live in and out acts of grace and live a life of piety. The means of grace are the sacraments, especially the sacrament of communion, which this blog derives it's name from. The table is were we come together to ingest grace, to be filled with Christ, after all, "you are what you eat." To be made one body, through sharing of one loaf. Acts of grace and a life of piety is bible study, prayer, and fellowship with a faith community. This is how we stay in love with God.

So, in my first year as a Methodist, the year that has led me down this road which I am on now, serving as a pastor, a seminary student and a candidate for Ordained Ministry, taught my three simple ways to be a committed follower of Christ. I learned that the people called Methodist, which I am proud to be, live a simple and visible faith, that involves three simple, but very biblical rules to living. So I will continue and I will press on and I encourage you to join me to do good, do no harm and to stay in love with God. See you at the table.
Grace and Peace,