Sunday, August 25, 2013

Psalm of Single-Mindedness

“Investigate my life, O God; get all the facts firsthand. I'm an open book to you; even from a distance, you know what I'm thinking.”  (Psalm 139:1-2, THE MESSAGE)
 
 “Lord of reality, make me real…
not plastic, synthetic, pretend, phony,
an actor playing out his part -- a hypocrite.
 I don’t want to keep a prayer list... but to pray;
 Nor to agonize to find your will...
but to obey what I already know;
 To argue theories of inspiration... but to submit to your Word.
 I don’t want to explain the difference between
eros and philos and agape... but to love.
 I don’t want to sing as if I mean it... but to mean it.
 I don’t want to tell it like it is... but to be like You want it.
 I don’t want to think another needs me...
but to know that I need You, O God --
or else I’m not complete.
 I don’t want to tell others how to do it... but to do it;
 I don’t want to always have to be right...
but to admit when I’m wrong.
 I don’t want to be a census taker... but an obstetrician;
            not just an involved person, a professional... but a friend.
 I don’t want to be insensitive...
but to hurt where other people hurt;
nor to say I know how you feel,... but to say God knows.
 And I’ll try if you’ll be patient with me
and meanwhile I’ll be quiet.
 I don’t want to scorn the clich├ęs of others...
but to mean everything I say...
 Including this.”
 
[--Written by Joseph Bayly, from his book Psalms of My Life (Wheaton, Ill: Tyndale House, 1969)]
What great words and thoughts to ponder, pray, and practice!  I hope they will describe your life, even as I am working on them describing mine!  Remember that God loves you and I do, too!

Sunday, August 18, 2013

A Discernible Wobble

 “In  the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven.” (Luke 5:16)

A few years back the pastor of my home church shared an article in their newsletter that want to pass on to you today:

            “I read a while back the excited announcement of a group of astronomers who had discovered 10 more planets circling neighboring stars, the closest of which is 10.5 light-years from earth. That's a long way but probably still close enough to interest some of our more ambitious real estate developers.

            The astronomers couldn’t yet tell us whether any of the newly discovered planets might sustain life. In fact, aside from their existence, not much can be said about the planets at all. You see, no one has actually seen them. So, you might reasonably ask, if we can't see them, how do we know they exist?

            It works like this: The gravitational pull of the planets causes the parent stars to wobble back and forth. That wobble, in turn, causes a slight wobble in the wavelength of light coming from the stars. And that wavelength of light is indeed measurable from here on earth. And so, from a wobbling light, scientists can reason their way back to the presence of a planet.

            Makes sense to me; not that I know anything about astronomy, but I do understand the logic. It is, after all, central to our Christian theology. Call it “Wobblology,” if you will.  We talk about it all the time in the church.

            It works like this: If you follow the movement of Christians in the universe, you should discern a certain wobble - an alteration of course that implies the presence of another force. That wobble might be a word of grace here or an act of compassion there or a stranger welcomed as friend or some unmerited kindness in an unlikely place that sets the Christian apart from the rest of humanity. "There, do you see?" I can imagine some objective scientist noting. "There is definitely something different about the movement of those Christians and the light they emit." Reason your way back and you will discover the cause - the presence of Christ and the gravitational pull of his love.

            In the end, there is no greater evidence for the existence of a divine love than the people who dwell in that love and no greater evidence for a Savior than the people who have been saved. So, wobble on, and in your wobbling bear witness to the Christ whose love changes everything.”

            (--Thanks to Rev. Mark Westmorland for his words in this article from the newsletter of
               Fayetteville First UMC, Fayetteville, GA)

Wow!  What a great reminder of the power of our influence on others!  I pray that as you live out your faith in your home, your workplace, your school, at the grocery store, and even on vacation, you'll have a “discernible wobble” about you that points others towards the reality and power of Christ!  Remember that God loves you and I do, too!

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Hospitality 101

“Welcome each other, in the same way that Christ welcomed you, for God’s glory.” (Romans 15:7)

Each late summer and Fall as children and teachers head back to school, it’s always the time when people start visiting churches again.  Here at East Cobb UMC, on any given Sunday, for the next few months, we’ll have an average of 2-3 first-timers and between 8-10 regular guests worshiping with us each and every Sunday.  

It’s therefore most important that we all be extra conscious not only of the presence of our guests, but also of the needs they might be bringing with them.  We may or may not see the outward, physical needs that bring them here:  a recent change in their life like a move, a divorce or separation, or a death in their family; “no longer getting fed by my current church”; “just looking around”; etc.

What we almost will never see or hear about (at least at first) are the deep inner, spiritual needs that actually motivated them to “try us out” in the first place:   their search to make sense out of a tragedy that happened in their lives;  a search for meaning and purpose and “more” than what their life currently offers;  a desire for more than “pat” answers to complex life issues.  And sometimes these inner needs are not even known to our guests themselves -- they think they’re visiting us for one reason, but God knows that their real need is something different!

This is why it’s essential that we be extra sensitive during this season to not only the presence of our visitors/guests, but of their need for us to offer to be a true community with and for them.  Recently I ran across an article by Jessicah Krey Duckworth that encourages churches to focus on at least three priorities in welcoming newcomers:
            #1 - LISTEN to the newcomer’s questions -- some may be trivial, some very weighty, some may be practical, and some  deeply theological, but by listening, we’ll gain their respect and show that we truly care about them.
            #2 - FACILITATE the newcomer’s participation in church ministries and programs alongside existing members -- when guests are invited and encouraged to participate in this way, they feel a part of our community, and it connects them to us, and us to them, in a truly relational way.
            #3  - Help the newcomer to learn the CULTURE & WAYS of doing things in our church -- every church has some unique things about it: what it does; how it does them; and why.  Helping guests learn these not only includes them as part of our current reality of ministry but helps them feel an integral part of something important.
            [--Taken from Jessicah Krey Duckworth’s article “Welcoming Newcomers to Your Congregation” in the 7-31-13 online issue of Leading Ideas cited from HERE


So, as you see guests and newcomers in worship and around our facilities the next few months, I pray that you’ll take time to LISTEN, to FACILITATE, and to help others learn our CULTURE & WAYS.  How hospitable are you????  Remember, God loves you and I do, too!

Sunday, August 4, 2013

I Must Tell Jesus

“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ... who consoles us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to console those who are in any affliction with the consolation with which we ourselves are consoled by God." (2 Corinthians 1:3-4)

Far too many of us carry burdens and cares of life unnecessarily.  It's not our fault, really -- most of us have just grown up in a culture that teaches us to try and "make it" on our own... pulling ourselves up by our own "bootstraps," being independent and self-sufficient.  We're taught (consciously and not) that it's a sign of "weakness" to ask for help... whether it's help from others (like from a friend, family member, pastor, Stephen Minister, counselor, etc.), or even from God Himself.

And yet, how many of us have ever really found relief from burdens and cares all by ourselves? If we're honest, I'd say very, very few ever have (if any at all).  Freedom and release is only truly found when we honestly share our burdens with safe people and with God.

Back in 1893, Elisha A. Hoffman wrote the words to this now-famous hymn that captures well what will truly help us...

            "I must tell Jesus all of my trials;
             I cannot bear these burdens alone;
             In my distress He kindly will help me;
             He ever loves and cares for His own.

            Refrain:  I must tell Jesus! I must tell Jesus!
            I cannot bear my burdens alone;
            I must tell Jesus! I must tell Jesus!
            Jesus can help me, Jesus alone.

            I must tell Jesus all of my troubles;
            He is a kind, compassionate friend;
            If I but ask Him, He will deliver,
            Make of my troubles quickly an end. (Refrain)

            Tempted and tried, I need a great Savior;
            One Who can help my burdens to bear;
            I must tell Jesus, I must tell Jesus;
            He all my cares and sorrows will share. (Refrain)

            O how the world to evil allures me!
            O how my heart is tempted to sin!
            I must tell Jesus, and He will help me
            Over the world the victory to win. (Refrain)”

[--Lyrics by Elisha A. Hoffman (1893), cited in www.hymnlyrics.org/lyricsi/i_must_tell_jesus.html ]

Whatever it is that you're burdened by today, I invite you first to talk to Jesus about it in your prayer life.  Honestly admit to him your struggle.  Then allow his strength to give you courage to share it honestly and confidentially with a safe person of faith around you, so that God can use them to bring you hope and healing!  Always remember that God loves you and I do, too!