If you don’t know about the recent special session of the General Conference of the United Methodist Church, the issues at hand nor the potential for that denomination to split, I’m going to assume it’s because you have been trying to avoid hearing about it. I’m not even going into it here. I suspect you either know all you want to and more or you are really trying hard not to find out.
I only bring it up because one of my friends posted a link to Facebook last week and one his friends, that I do not know, went off on a tangent about denominations. He first denounced the Methodist Church for even having a vote on such an issue then denounced all denominations across the board referring to the practice of denominationalism. What does he even mean by that? Continue reading →
For those who sleep, sleep at night, and those who get drunk, are drunk at night.8 But since we belong to the day, let us be sober, having put on the breastplate of faith and love, and for a helmet the hope of salvation.9 For God has not destined us for wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ,10 who died for us so that whether we are awake or asleep we might live with him.11 Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing. –1 Thessalonians 5:7-11
The Old Testament prophets had three different types of messages. Most people think of prophets as predicting future events but that’s only one thing they did. The prophet was the spokesperson for God when he had a message for Israel. Sometimes the prophet brought a message of warning. Jeremiah and Jonah offer examples. “This is what you are doing, this is what God wants you to do. It’s not too late to repent.” Sometimes Israel heeded those warnings, often they did not. Sometimes the prophet brought a word of encouragement. “You are a doing a good job, keep up the good work.” Some days are harder than others and we need to be reminded that our help comes from the Lord.
Sometimes Paul talks about running the race that is set before us. At other times he speaks of pressing toward the mark. Sometimes the race is hard and we don’t run as much as we lean into it and strain. The path is uphill and into the wind. The world gives us enough to push against we certainly don’t need to make things hard on each other. I’ve been in church my whole life and I’ll be honest with you: sometimes church people are the worst. Paul tells us in 1 Thes. 5 to encourage one another. Build one another up. Sometimes we just need a pat on the back and an “atta boy” or “atta girl” to remind us we are not alone. God is always with us but we as believers need to bear one another’s burdens as well. Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep.
And in the same region there were shepherds out in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night.9 And an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were filled with great fear.10 And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people.11 For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.12 And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.”13 And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying,
14 “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!”
15 When the angels went away from them into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let us go over to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has made known to us.”16 And they went with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby lying in a manger.17 And when they saw it, they made known the saying that had been told them concerning this child.18 And all who heard it wondered at what the shepherds told them.19 But Mary treasured up all these things, pondering them in her heart.20 And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told them. -Luke 2:8-20Continue reading →
The ministry of John the Baptist preceded Jesus’ public ministry. People had speculated all kinds of things about John the Baptist but he was clear that another was coming after him that would be greater. John compared himself to a friend of the bridegroom. We might say today that his spotlight was fading and Jesus’ was coming up. His statement indicates that his popularity and even his ministry would be decreasing as Jesus’ ministry rose in prominence. It was his time. We sometimes apply this idea to our own lives. We must make less of ourselves and more of Jesus. I suggest there is more than one way to think about this. Continue reading →
Read the Bible and pray. Those are the basic instructions given to every new believer. What LifeWay Researched has determined, however, is that while Americans are very fond of the Bible they just don’t read it.
Scott McConnell of LifeWay Research says that even among worship attendees less than half read the Bible daily. You can read his full report here. I have often observed that many Christians get their Bible reading at church on Sunday, i.e. in the Sunday School lesson or what the pastor reads from the pulpit. Continue reading →
We are sent to share the Gospel. In a statement known as the Great Commision (Matthew 28:16-20) Jesus told his followers to go to all nations. They were sent to proclaim the Gospel message and to make disciples; teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. Evangelism is more than having an audience raise their hands, repeat a prayer or sign a card. Making disciples goes beyond baptism. It’s an investment into people’s lives that involves building relationships and working together in ministry. Followers of Jesus are not to just promote him but to lead others into a life of following. To teach others all that Jesus has command we must first learn and understand ourselves. The two processes actually happen simultaneously. We continue on the journey of learning and being conformed to the image of Christ while recruiting others to walk with us. Go to all the world, preach/teach/share the Gospel, make disciples. To this task we are called. Continue reading →
Much of the New Testament was written in Greek and gospel is a word that we borrowed from the original language without translating it. Gospel simply means good news. If you look at crime rates, history, human nature or simply tune into to any news program then you know that we are surrounded by bad news. In the United States we are deeply divided politically, there is gun violence, debate over gun violence, crime in the big cities and various protests across the nation over a variety of issues. Other countries are at war, operate under a military regime or are completely impoverished. People don’t seem to be getting better. Our level of science and technology has increased but after thousands of years of philosophical discussion we as the human race have not dramatically improved. Theft, rape, murder and war are still universally found around the globe much as they were in ancient times. The bad news is obvious to anyone paying attention: there is something wrong with us. Beyond politics, individual beliefs and philosophy, human nature is flawed. There may in fact be some good in every person but the bad in every person has not yet been weeded out. Continue reading →