Wednesday, January 30, 2013

MOG Day 31 - Faith Sharing


The Commissioning of the Disciples (matthew 28)

16 Now the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had directed them. 17 When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted. 18 And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

Last summer I signed up for a half-marathon. I'm a smart person so I can see now that it was mostly due to peer pressure but I haven't regretted that choice. Signing up for the race forced me to look at my health. What was I putting into my body? How was I staying in shape (or not)?

With that came several changes. First I started running. Then I realized that I wasn't in shape to run yet, so I began working out at boot camp and then increased my miles each week. And finally I looked at what I was eating. Lots of stuff from boxes and bags. While those may be good things at Christmastime, it is not good for your health. So I started eating things from my fridge. Meat, veggies, and fruit.

After a few weeks, I started to feel great! I had lost several inches off my waist. BUT NO ONE NOTICED!

It took 3 months before people started to really take notice. After 4 months I realized I'd gone from a size 16 to an 8. All of a sudden, everyone wanted to know my secret. People asked what I was eating. How often I was working out. Did I take supplements. etc etc

Faith sharing is not much different from my weight loss story. 

When we first start on our journey, we feel amazing! We can't believe how we lasted so long without realizing the love of God was in our lives! Then we start acting as if the love of God is in our lives. But it takes weeks, months, and sometimes years before other people think to ask us what we are doing that brings such joy to our lives.

I hope that those of you who have been reading and acting upon these Means of Grace have experienced God. I hope that you see where God is working and where you can join Him. But I also hope that others can see that God is making a difference in your life. If you keep purposefully trying to experience God each day, EVENTUALLY PEOPLE WILL NOTICE.

And they'll ask.

Transformation takes time and repetition. 

Faith sharing takes just a moment. I'm not saying you should wait to talk about God only when approached. If your faith is truly part of your DNA, its hard not to talk about God. But I am saying that your actions will speak louder than your words and will back up the words you choose when the time is right.

And I hope you have many "right" times.

Until Everyone Hears,



Tuesday, January 29, 2013

MOG Day 30 - Baptism/Remebrance

Mark 1:8
I have baptized you with water; but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.”

Baptism is a sacrament that seals a covenant between God and a person.

Most people find it odd that this is listed as a means of grace because in the United Methodist Church we Baptize only once and often as infants.  So to list this as a way to experience God can be a bit disappointing if you were baptized as a baby and therefore don't remember it.

But in the UMC, we also baptize as part of the congregation. The congregation plays a role in ensuring that the child or adult is nurtured in the faith. In other words, we are supposed to help them on their journey.

We also are able to celebrate a service to remember our baptism. These aren't to be done often, but when a person feels the need to remember the covenant made with God, due to a special spiritual experience, we give them the opportunity to do so.

So today we will remember our baptism at Hopewell UMC. And we will be thankful.

Until Everyone Hears,

Monday, January 28, 2013

MOG Day 29 - Fasting

I found this interesting article on fasting on the cru.org website (campus crusade for christ):


7 Basic Steps to Successful Fasting and Prayer

By Bill Bright
I believe the power of fasting as it relates to prayer is the spiritual atomic bomb that our Lord has given us to destroy the strongholds of evil and usher in a great revival and spiritual harvest around the world.
Increasingly I have been gripped with a growing sense of urgency to call upon God to send revival to our beloved country. In the spring and summer of 1994, I had a growing conviction that God wanted me to fast and pray for forty days for revival in America and for the fulfillment of the Great Commission in obedience to our Lord's command.
At first I questioned, "Is this truly God's call for me?" Forty days was a long time to go without solid food. But with each passing day, His call grew stronger and more clear. Finally, I was convinced. God was calling me to fast, and He would not make such a call without a specific reason or purpose. With this conviction, I entered my fast with excitement and expectancy mounting in my heart, praying, "Lord, what do you want me to do?"
I believe such a long fast was a sovereign call of God because of the magnitude of the sins of America and of the Church. The Lord impressed that upon my heart, as well as the urgent need to help accelerate the fulfillment of the Great Commission in this generation.
As I began my fast, I was not sure I could continue for forty days. But my confidence was in the Lord to help me. Each day His presence encouraged me to continue. The longer I fasted, the more I sensed the presence of the Lord. The Holy Spirit refreshed my soul and spirit, and I experienced the joy of the Lord as seldom before. Biblical truths leaped at me from the pages of God's Word. My faith soared as I humbled myself and cried out to God and rejoiced in His presence.
This proved to be the most important forty days of my life. As I waited upon the Lord, the Holy Spirit gave me the assurance that America and much of the world will, before the end of the year 2000, experience a great spiritual awakening. This divine visit from heaven will kindle the greatest spiritual harvest in the history of the Church. But before God comes in revival power, the Holy Spirit will call millions of God's people to repent, fast, and pray in the spirit of 2 Chronicles 7:14:
If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land.
The scope of this revival depends on how believers in America and the rest of the world respond to this call. I have spent fifty years studying God's Word and listening to His voice, and His message could not have been more clear.
This handy reference guide, Seven Basic Steps to Successful Fasting and Prayer, will help make your time with the Lord more spiritually rewarding. I encourage you to keep it with you during your fast and refer to it often because it gives easy-to-follow suggestions on how to begin your fast, what to do while you fast, and how to end your fast properly.
During my forty-day fast, God impressed me to pray that two million Christians in North America will fast for forty days by the end of the year 2000, and pray for national and worldwide revival and for the fulfillment of the Great Commission. I urge you to prayerfully consider this challenge.
Before you fast, I encourage you to read my book, The Coming Revival: America's Call to Fast, Pray, and "Seek God's Face." It will help equip you for the coming spiritual awakening.


Until Everyone Hears,

Sunday, January 27, 2013

MOG Day 28 - Good Works

Ephesians 2:10 - For we are what he has made us, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand to be our way of life.

For our last time of doing good works, I'm going to get a bit more specific. This time I want you to make something. If you paint, paint. If you sew, sew. Carpentry? Cooking? Think what you can do and then create one thing.

While you are making it, think about who needs it. The answer will come to you. Then make it for that person. Wrap it up (if possible). And deliver it anonymously to that person.

You may have already done something like this during one of our other "good works" opportunities but I believe that we are in danger of losing the practice of making things by hand. I know I only dally in a few different crafts and even then, only from time to time.

So use your creative power that God gave you. After God created He said that "It was good." Then he gave it to us. Go and do likewise.

Until Everyone Hears,

Saturday, January 26, 2013

MOG Day 27 - Worship

For those of you who want to worship at The Church of the Living Room:  (from umc.org)

See you in worship...

Do you have to go to church to be a Christian?


The plain point is this:
The answer to your question is, of course, determined by the definition of what a Christian is. If a Christian is simply someone who assents to belief in the Triune God, then the answer is no. If a Christian is someone who is kind, caring, and keeps the basic ethical teachings of loving God (without specific practices) and loves one's neighbor, then the answer could be no, one does not have to go to church.

However, if a Christian is someone who has been baptized into the church and professed the faith of the church, then the answer is yes.
At baptism or in confirmation/profession of faith, we make very important promises.  We renounce evil, the spiritual forces of wickedness, and repent of our sin. We declare that we accept the freedom God gives us to resist evil, injustice, and oppression. Then we declare we trust in Christ for salvation and promise to serve him in unity with his church.

In those promises we accept God's acceptance of us within the beloved community, we promise to serve WITH THE CHURCH, and the church welcomes us as members of Christ's royal priesthood.

John Wesley taught and practiced accountable discipleship.  He knew what we deep down know today--we can't keep on the path with Christ without the help and support of other Christians. Without hearing the Word read and preached, without gathering with other Christians around the table to share and feast upon Christ who is host and sacrifice for us, and without becoming part of the fire of the Spirit, we are like embers of a fire separated from the community of grace. We grow cold and the fire and flame of love grow cold and we die spiritually. We may still believe, but we stand outside the covenant in our practice.

However, it is important to add God does not let us go or give up on us. What God promises, God does not revoke. We are still marked as Christ's disciple and still called to live in and with and for Christ.

So what is the answer? Ask yourself, can you be a Christian--baptized, table sharing, connected to Jesus and one with his body--the body that Paul says we are to discern when we gather to remember (See 1 Cor. 1
without God's grace we cannot live the Christian life. God's grace is everywhere at work and always available. And if we really seek it and must have it, why would we go anywhere but to where Christ has promised, "I am the bread of life.  Whoever comes to me will never be hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty." (John 6:35)
--Rev. Dan Benedict
Center for Worship Resourcing
General Board of Discipleship

Friday, January 25, 2013

MOG Day 26 - Healthy Living

Psalm 33:3
Sing to him a new song; play skillfully, and shout for joy.

What? Healthy Living again???? Didn't we do this like a million times?

As you know, the best way to become healthy is by time and repetition. The best way to live a Christian life is by time and repetition.

And so as we've done this entire month, we've put in some time and now some more repetition in order to get healthier and experience God at the same time.

We've tackled eating healthy. We've gotten our buns moving. We've taken deep breaths. We've gotten some shut-eye. 

But what about the fun?

Ah for some of us the healthy living components listed above are fun. But for others we are still lacking.

The above scripture says to "play skillfully." Of course it is in reference to playing an instrument, but did you know that playing an instrument or singing is good for your health? It uses oxygen and motion to help you create something fun!

But play isn't limited to music. Do you remember riding bikes as a kid? Playing checkers? Hopscotch? 

Play is good for you. Its fun! God wants us to do it. So get out there and do something fun!

Play! And thank God that you are able to do so!

Until Everyone Hears,

Thursday, January 24, 2013

MOG Day 25 - Good Works

Psalm 36:3
The words of their mouths are wicked and deceitful; they fail to act wisely or do good.

We often think of good works as something we do: make bacon for an amazing youth pastor, buy Starbucks for the car behind us (especially if its a gray Chevy Traverse). But good works can also be something that you say.

Today's world is full of sarcasm. And I am the queen of sarcasm. I often have to stop myself from going too far so that I don't come across as negative. I'm usually just trying to be funny but when done too often, it can be damaging.

So for today's good deed --> BE AFFIRMING!

Try and go out of your way to say one positive thing to each person you speak to.

And if that means you take a vow of silence for the day so be it. The world is full of too many words (and yes I get the irony).

So with that...

Until Everyone Hears,

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

MOG Day 24 - Healthy Living


Psalm 150:6
Let everything that has breath praise the Lord.Praise the Lord.

Just thinking about being healthy gives some people that guilty anxiety. You know you've thought it before, "I really wish I hadn't eaten the whole sleeve of Girl Scout cookies!" "I can't remember the last time I exercised." 

But when you get down to it, being healthy is about living life to the fullest. When you are healthy, you are happier. You have more energy. And most of all, you can do what God calls you to do.

A lot of times, stress gets in the way of pursuing other healthy habits. When we are stressed we often turn to the newly delivered Thin Mints or watch just one more episode of Storage Wars (cause its educational). There's nothing wrong with savoring a cookie or vegging out in front of the plug-in drug, but long term stress is not... well um.. healthy.

So here's a little trick that I've learned to help calm down and destress a bit.

1) Inhale deeply for a count of 5 (or more). Make sure to breathe from the belly up.
2) Hold for a count of 5 (or same count as before)
3) Exhale for a count of 5
4) Hold for a count of 5
5) Repeat as needed.

This will help you to slow down. Focus on the one thing that needs focus. 

I tend to do this exercise at stop lights. It stops me from picking up the phone (a dangerous no-no) and helps me have more patience with crazy drivers.

Try it! You'll find that just perhaps you'll feel a bit better and maybe that will lead to your heart being strangely warmed.

Then you can use your breath for praising God!

Until Everyone Hears,

Monday, January 21, 2013

MOG Day 23 - Visiting Those In Prison


Genesis 39:19-21

New International Version (NIV)
19 When his master heard the story his wife told him, saying, “This is how your slave treated me,” he burned with anger. 20 Joseph’s master took him and put him in prison, the place where the king’s prisoners were confined.
But while Joseph was there in the prison, 21 the Lord was with him; he showed him kindness and granted him favor in the eyes of the prison warden.

God is with all of us. All the time.

And throughout the Biblical stories, you'll find that great things happen in prison. 

Joseph gets called to save Egypt from famine. Paul and Silas convert a prison guard. Paul writes a lot of his letters that end in in the New Testament while in prison.

Good things can come from prison. As we focused yesterday on ending discrimination we read part of his letter from a Birmingham jail. Who knows where we would be if that letter was never written?

Or if Paul's were never written? 

What got these prisoners through was their faith? But what about those who have no faith? What difference could they make in the world if they only believed?

Perhaps you could be the difference in transformation of the world, just by helping or visiting someone in prison.

I know this is a difficult means of grace to put into action. If you don't have someone close to you who is in prison (and I pray that you don't), then it is almost impossible to make a connection.

But by becoming aware of the possibilities in even the remote places such as prison, we open ourselves up to what God is doing there and what God is doing all around us.

Until Everyone Hears,


One More Thing - Here is what one church in Atlanta is doing involving prison ministry. This makes it easier for non-clergy to get involved. http://www.fba.org/ministries/chosen-people/57-one-faith-outreach.html

MOG Day 22 - Giving to the Needy

2 Corinthians 9:7
Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.

I often get questions about the amount one should give. Most people think that 10% is a hard and fast rule. You'd be happy to know however it is not. While 10% might have been a firm rule for those in the Jewish faith, for Christians the amount is not the issue. Your attitude and your heart is the issue. 

Jesus' two biggest rules were 1) love God and b) love neighbor. Why? because 1) God is love and therefore worthy of the connection and b) because God loves us and therefore our neighbors are worthy of our connection too (even when we don't understand why). 

The same is true for money. God gave you brains and ability to earn wages. And if you are in the right circumstances, where you have extra beyond your needs (no the internet is not a need and yes I know you are reading this via said luxury), then why should there be a limit?

Jesus didn't say, "Love your neighbor 20% of the time, because we all know you'll be sick of him/her the other 80%." Jesus said, "Love your neighbor." There was no amount placed upon it. Just the emotion or preferably the emotion in action.

Which brings us to "Giving to the Needy." Think of giving as putting your emotion in action. It is an extension of loving your neighbor - the needy neighbor. Not needy as in "you don't have the patience for them" but needy as in those-who-can't-meet-their-needs. And while this could be an actual neighbor, it could also be someone, who for whatever reason, is living in poverty.

You may question giving to such people. And wonder if giving them money will actually go to needs or if the money will go to un-needed substances.

But that is where faith comes in. You don't know. And perhaps they might just use your change to buy alcohol or something else. But the fact that you reached out is an act of compassion that God will bless in some way.

No, I'm not saying that you should throw your money at everyone on the corner begging. But deliberately think about where you can make the most impact and then MAKE THE MOST IMPACT! Whether that is 2%, 10% or 40%.

Its up to you. Do as you are led and feel good about it.

Until Everyone Hears,

Sunday, January 20, 2013

MOG Day 21 - End Discrimination

Philippians 1:12-14

Now I want you to know, brothers and sisters, that what has happened to me has actually served to advance the gospel. As a result, it has become clear throughout the whole palace guard and to everyone else that I am in chains for Christ. And because of my chains, most of the brothers and sisters have become confident in the Lord and dare all the more to proclaim the gospel without fear.

Paul wrote these words to his friends in Philippi while he was in jail for talking about Jesus. You may think that is quite unfair, but it was against the law or at the very least, bucking the authority was against the law and Paul's words were a threat the the powers that be... just as Jesus' were.

I don't know what it is about jail that inspires people to write great letters, and I hope I never find out. But Martin Luther King Jr. wrote an amazing letter while he was in jail in Birmingham because of his participation in a non-violent protest.

Apparently some white, clergymen were concerned that the protests were getting in the way of the message of social change and these clergymen thought that discrimination should be sorted out in the court system and not on the streets. In response MLK writes,"Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly… Anyone who lives inside the United States can never be considered an outsider…"

"Outsiders" weren't a part of Jesus' language. To him, everyone was an outsider and he did his best to reach out with love and compassion.

Both Paul and MLK had passion for the messages that they tried to spread. With that passion came action and consequences.

There is still discrimination in the world. But we can do something to stop it. We can take action - Reach out to the outsiders. Call people out who treat others as outsiders. And above all - love your neighbor. No matter what they look like or where they are from.

And with all of these actions come consequences. Others may not agree with you. You may lose friends. In rare cases, you may get arrested. But is the message of Jesus - ie to love others - enough to call you to act with passion? Even if you don't quite buy into Jesus - aren't we as human beings worthy of treating others the way we want to be treated?

Go and act with compassion and see the world as if no one was an outsider.

To read the King's letter in full, go to http://www.africa.upenn.edu/Articles_Gen/Letter_Birmingham.html

Until Everyone Hears,

Saturday, January 19, 2013

MOG Day 20 - Worship

Ever wondered about the colors in a church and why they change on occasion? You don't need to crack the Davinci Code to learn about it. Just read this excerpt from UMC.org.


The Christian year has two cycles: the Christmas Cycle (Advent-Christmas-Epiphany) and the Easter Cycle (Lent-Easter-Pentecost). Within each cycle are a preparatory season symbolized by the color purple and a festival season symbolized by the color white. After each cycle there is an ordinary time of growth symbolized the color green. Thus there is a sequence of seasons using purple, white, and green in that order twice each year.  (The United Methodist Book of Worship, Copyright © 1992 The United Methodist Publishing House)
  • Traditionally purple, representing both royalty and penitence, is used during Advent and Lent.
  • Blue symbolizes hope and may also be used during Advent.
  • White and gold are used at Christmas and Easter to symbolize joy and festivities.
  • Red symbolizes the color of fire to represent the Holy Spirit on the Day of Pentecost and times when the work of the Holy Spirit is emphasized.  During Holy Week it represents the blood of Christ.  Red is also used for ordinations, church anniversaries and civil observances such as Memorial Day and Thanksgiving.
  • Green represents growth and is used during Ordinary Time (the season after Epiphany and the season after Pentecost.)
So GO GREEN in your celebrations this weekend! (in case you were wondering what "season"we were in)! It will, as always, be a great day to celebrate God.

Until Everyone Hears,

Friday, January 18, 2013

MOG Day 19 - Seek to End Oppression

Psalm 72:14
He will rescue them from oppression and violence, for precious is their blood in his sight.

Oppression is the exercise of authority or power in a burdensome, cruel, or unjust manner. My kids might say that they are oppressed but oppression is a serious problem even in America in 2013.

Just do a google search on sex-trafficking, and you will discover that Atlanta is the number one hub for human trafficking in the US. It is a real problem with real faces of men, women, and children who make this crime a monstrosity. 

But how do those of us who are naive to these things seek to end oppression?

1) Find your cause: slavery, sex trafficking, genocide.. think about what you want to see gone the most and start there. 
2) Find others that share your cause: look for web sites that might support your cause: http://www.endhumantrafficking.org/get-involved/individual-action, http://www.fairtradeusa.org/ are both good ones to get started with.
3) Take a step: Donate, write a letter, spread the word. Sometimes that's all it takes for outrage to take the power away from those in authority to commit such crimes.

Until Everyone Hears,


Thursday, January 17, 2013

MOG Day 18 - Public Prayer

Colossians 1:3-5

Our prayers for you are always spilling over into thanksgivings. We can’t quit thanking God our Father and Jesus our Messiah for you! We keep getting reports on your steady faith in Christ, our Jesus, and the love you continuously extend to all Christians. The lines of purpose in your lives never grow slack, tightly tied as they are to your future in heaven, kept taut by hope. -The Message 

Last time we got to experience Public Prayer, I gave lots of options: pray before a meal, pray with your kids at bedtime, pray with your family. For most seasoned Christians these things are not so hard to do.

But this time I want us to stretch a bit. Now make your public prayer - public. Yes public. As in, not in your home and with other people around who are not a part of the prayer.

I know that this will possibly set you up as a Jesus Freak but is that really so bad? It is not very different from a Muslim call to prayer or a Jewish person wearing a prayer shawl. 

The great thing is that we have the freedom so that we don't have to stop five times a day or wear certain clothing in order to pray. We can do it anywhere. The bad part? No one sees us do it. Not that it is important for others to see us pray and Jesus does warn about praying for the sake of a public display of praying but public prayer holds us accountable. Accountable to the people we are praying for and accountable for our future actions. When we do things in public, we are announcing to the world that we are a follower of Jesus. And with that comes big responsibility.

So get out there and let us see you pray! It may be the only hope that someone else gets to see today.

Until Everyone Hears,

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

MOG Day 17 - Healthy Living

Matthew 12:33
“If you grow a healthy tree, you’ll pick healthy fruit. If you grow a diseased tree, you’ll pick worm-eaten fruit. The fruit tells you about the tree."
-The Message

I know I'm taking this scripture out of context a bit but it is absolutely true. If you want healthy fruit, you'll grow a healthy tree. So it goes to reason that if you want a healthy person, you'll do healthy things to be that person.

This month we've been doing things that make a difference. Either in our own lives or in the lives of others. But if we aren't healthy, we can't help others.

Thus in order to "put on our own oxygen mask first," we need to take an interest in our own health. Last week when we did this several people went for walks or ate fresh fruit and veggie. But one person surprised me. She said she was going to bed earlier in order to get more sleep.
  
Ah sleep, the forgotten virtue! Sleep is essential but I never really understood the complexity of that statement until reading Dreamland: Adventures in the Strange Science of Sleep by David K. Randall.

In his book, Randall gives an easy to understand, scientific explanation of all aspects of sleep (or at least as much of an explanation as we have discovered so far). Once you read it you'll understand how restorative sleep can be.

So today's assignment is easy -- GET SOME SLEEP! Then tomorrow you can be a healthy tree and bear healthy fruit.

Until Everyone Hears,

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

MOG Day 16 - Visiting Those in Prison

Matthew 25:41-43 - The Message

Jesus said...

“Then he will turn to the ‘goats,’ the ones on his left, and say, ‘Get out, worthless goats! You’re good for nothing but the fires of hell. And why? Because—I was hungry and you gave me no meal, I was thirsty and you gave me no drink, I was homeless and you gave me no bed, I was shivering and you gave me no clothes, Sick and in prison, and you never visited.’

Seriously? Jesus said that? I understand the giving people food and shelter. I even understand visiting. But prison? That may be out of my comfort zone. 

And for the most part it still is. I've had zero opportunities to visit someone in  prison. Zero. I have however visited some in jail. Some in a high security home for juveniles but never a prison. And as a detective recently reminded me, there is a vast difference between someone who is in a jail waiting for bail or trial, knowing that there is possibly and end in the near future, and those who are in prison, feeling that their release is a lifetime away (and indeed it may actually be).

Why does Jesus ask us to do this? Is it because the justice system back then falsely imprisoned so many people that this was an act of justice rather than an act of pastoral care? If so, does that release us from the obligation to visit those in prison?

I tend to think that Jesus said this less because of justice or pastoral care and more to get us to act in compassion. Regardless of why someone ended up in prison, regardless of if someone was falsely imprisoned, regardless of what the person was like before or in prison, we are called to love them. Jesus said he'd go after the lost sheep, the lost coin, and the prodigal son. Meaning that Jesus cares even about these people that, let's face it, don't really get a lot of care.

So how are we to do this visitation thing? Well for those of us who live in a bubble, this can get difficult. It is really hard to visit someone in prison unless you are related to them, are on a visitation list for them, or are on the cleared clergy list to visit. Right now I'm not on any list.

There are however ways you can help. There is a ministry called Kairos prison ministry that holds retreats for inmates to help them grow in a stronger relationship with God. They also hold retreats for family members of the inmates as well. This is one way to "do visitation." 

If for some reason, it is not convenient for you, the same ministry ask for people to pray for the weekend while the retreat is going on. As a church we have written letters of encouragement and sent them along with those who are leading the retreats. I'm told that their faces light up to know that strangers are thinking of them... and that they care.

If you want more information, go to http://mykairos.org/index.html

Until Everyone Hears,

Monday, January 14, 2013

MOG Day 15 - Good Works

Don’t fool yourself into thinking that you are a listener when you are anything but, letting the Word go in one ear and out the other. Act on what you hear! Those who hear and don’t act are like those who glance in the mirror, walk away, and two minutes later have no idea who they are, what they look like. 

James 1:22-24 The Message

I love the end of the movie Evan Almighty when God tells Evan that building the ark was about doing one Act of Random Kindness at a time. Then God says, "Let me ask you something. If someone prays for patience, you think God gives them patience? Or does he give them the opportunity to be patient? If he prayed for courage, does God give him courage, or does he give him opportunities to be courageous? If someone prayed for the family to be closer, do you think God zaps them with warm fuzzy feelings, or does he give them opportunities to love each other?"

Many of us are searching for inspiration, hope, and a way to be connected and therefore fulfilled. We pray and we ask and we always end up disappointed because we are looking for the wise men to deliver these gifts to us like they did to the sweet baby Jesus. 
.But its not gonna happen that way. We've gotta take some ownership that God gave us brains and bodies to use to make this world a better place. Even our world. 

So today, go and do some random act of kindness. It might not save the world from a flood but it will connect you to someone else and let you be an inspiration and hope for that person. I'm NOT saying this is Karma and we should make a "My Name Is Earl" list. I'm saying that when your perspective and reaction to doing good deeds changes, then you change too.

Until Everyone Hears,

Sunday, January 13, 2013

MOG Day 14 - Communion

Since we won't have another change to receive Communion during worship this month, we're going to have to try something a bit different here.

John Wesley thought it was a good idea to receive Communion as often as possible. Even everyday if possible. That really isn't easy to do in our world today.

But we can certainly have it more than once per month.

I will be at Hopewell UMC Tyrone on January 14 at 9:30 am. If you would like to stop by for Communion, I will be there for at least an hour. If you cannot come during that time, let me know when would be a good time for you and I will bring the elements to you.

If you are not United Methodist and/or have questions about Communion in our denomination, I've copied some frequently asked questions from the umc.org web site. If you still have questions let me know.

Until Everyone Hears,


Why do United Methodists call this sharing of bread and cup by different names, such as Lord’s Supper, Holy Communion, and Eucharist?
Each of these names is taken from the New Testament and highlights certain facets of this sacrament’s many meanings. Calling it the Lord’s Supper reminds us that it is a meal instituted by the Lord Jesus Christ and hosted by him at his table whenever it takes place. Calling it Holy Communion reminds us that it is an act of the most holy and intimate sharing, making us one with Jesus Christ and part of his body, the church. Calling it the Eucharist, a term taken from the New Testament Greek word meaning thanksgiving, reminds us that giving thanks to God for all that God has done is an essential part of the meal. By using different names we acknowledge that no single name can contain the rich wealth of meanings in this sacred act. 
What do United Methodists mean when they call this act a sacrament?
Our Confession of Faith states: “We believe the sacraments, ordained by Christ, are symbols and pledges of the Christian’s profession and of God’s love toward us. They are means of grace by which God works invisibly in us, quickening [bringing to life], strengthening and confirming our faith in him. Two Sacraments are ordained by Christ our Lord, namely Baptism and the Lord’s Supper.” The term is taken from the Latin sacramentum, which was a Roman soldier’s pledge of allegiance. A sacrament is God‘s pledge of allegiance [love and faithfulness] to us, and our answering pledge of allegiance to God.
Do United Methodists believe that the bread and wine physically or chemically change into Christ’s flesh and blood in this sacrament?
No, we believe that the change is spiritual. They signify the body and blood of Christ for us, helping us to be Christ’s body in the world today, redeemed by Christ’s blood. We pray over the bread and the cup that they may make us one with Christ, “one with each other, and one in service to all the world.”
I am a Christian, but not a United Methodist. Am I invited to receive Communion in a United Methodist church?
Yes indeed. It is the Lord’s Supper, not ours, and it is Christ who invites you. As our ritual puts it: “Christ our Lord invites to his table all who love him, who earnestly repent of their sin and seek to live in peace with one another.” We do not refuse any who present themselves desiring to receive. Whether you should receive Communion with us is between you and God.
I do not wish to receive Communion because doing so would be disloyal to my religion or my denomination. May I attend a United Methodist Communion service and not receive Communion?
Yes indeed. We do not want anyone to feel unwelcome because, for whatever reason, they do not choose to receive Communion. Simply remain seated when others go forward, or pass the bread and cup along if they are passed to you, and no one will question what you do.
Should I receive Communion if I feel unworthy?
Two thousand years ago Jesus ate with sinners and those whom others scorned. He still does. None of us is worthy, except by God’s grace. Thank God we don’t have to earn worth in God’s eyes by our goodness or our faith. Your sacred worth, and ours, is God’s free gift. No matter what you have done or what your present condition, if you want Christ in your life you are welcome at his table. Communion provides the opportunity for you to confess your sins, to receive forgiveness, and to indicate your intention to lead a new life.
May young children receive Communion?
Certainly. As The United Methodist Book of Worship puts it, “All who intend to lead a Christian life, together with their children, are invited to receive the bread and cup.” We remember that when some of Jesus’ disciples tried to keep children away from him he said: “Let the little children come to me; do not stop them; for it is to such as these that the kingdom of God belongs” (Mark 10:14 NRSV).
But do young children know what they are doing when they receive Communion?
Do they understand the full meaning of this holy sacrament? No, and neither do any of us. It is a wonderful mystery, and children can sense wonder and mystery. Children cannot understand the full significance of family meals, but we feed them at our family tables and at Christ’s family table. Young children experience being loved by being fed. They sense the difference between being included and excluded at a family meal. They have the faith of a child, appropriate to their stage of development, which Jesus recognized and honored. Indeed, he said to adults: “Whoever does not receive the kingdom of God as a little child will never enter it” (Mark 10:15 NRSV).
May I receive Communion without standing or kneeling?
Certainly. In some United Methodist congregations most persons receive Communion while standing, while in others most receive while kneeling; but you are always welcome to receive while seated. If others are kneeling at the rail, you may remain standing and you will be served. You may also come forward and be seated on the front row, or come forward in your wheelchair, and you will be served. Or you may notify an usher, and someone will come to you and serve you where you are seated.
If someone in my family wishes to receive Communion but cannot come to the church service, can Communion be brought to them?
Certainly. As an extension of the congregation’s celebration of the Lord’s Supper, Communion is brought to persons, wherever they are, who wish it but could not attend the service. This can be done by the pastor or other clergy, or by designated laypersons.
Is Communion possible at weddings, at healing services, or at funerals or memorial services?
Yes. If you wish to arrange this, talk with your pastor.

Saturday, January 12, 2013

MOG Day 13 - Worship


From the umc.org web site:

A typical worship service at a United Methodist church may include a greeting and opening prayer, time for people to greet each other, scripture readings, silent prayer and meditation, an offering, the Lord’s Prayer, a children’s message, the sermon, special music and hymns, and a closing prayer.

Communion may also be served.  All are invited to celebrate communion, but you can choose whether or not you wish to participate.

Often churches will print words and responses in the bulletins to help those who are unfamiliar with United Methodist worship.

There will be some differences in the services from church to church. Some churches have a more formal style, while others may have more casual or contemporary services.  Some churches will offer more than one type of service.

Visit Find-A-Church to find a United Methodist church in your area. The pastor will be able to tell you more about the worship service(s).

So find a church and go. No excuses.

Until Everyone Hears,

Friday, January 11, 2013

MOG Day 12 - Good Works

Philippians 1:6
I am confident of this, that the one who began a good work among you will bring it to completion by the day of Jesus Christ. 

God does good work in us so it is time to pay it forward. But there are so many options. Where does one start?

Start with what God gives us. Love. Unconditional love and grace that doesn't have to be earned! Wow! How do I do all that in one day?

Start small. Buy Starbucks for the person behind you. Bring your neighbors garbage cans back up from the street. Deliver cookies to someone around the corner. Deliver bacon to my address. It doesn't matter... just go out and do some random act of kindness for someone else.

WARNING! This is probably the most fun means of grace! It can get addictive and you will really love it. At least I hope so.

Until Everyone Hears,

Thursday, January 10, 2013

MOG Day 11 - Seek Justice

He has told you, O mortal, what is good;
    and what does the Lord require of you
but to do justice, and to love kindness,
    and to walk humbly with your God?

-Micah 6:8

From UMC.org - The United Methodist Church has a long history of concern for social justice. Its members have often taken forthright positions on controversial issues involving Christian principles. Early Methodists expressed their opposition to the slave trade, to smuggling, and to the cruel treatment of prisoners.

So how do we seek justice?

We can start by looking around us. Do we see people or families who aren't able to live life to the fullest because they cannot get access to basic human needs? Forget your political agenda for a minute and think about actual people. Not statistics. Chances are you know someone who falls into this category. Perhaps they haven't made it known to you. Ask God to open your eyes. Today you might make a discovery. And when you do, start with them. It might not change the world but it will change their world.

Still can't think of anyone? Alright, lets think bigger. What really gets your blood steaming? Cruelty to children? Abused families? Abused pets? People living in poor housing conditions? People who are hungry?

Pick one. Just one for today. Research what is going on around you and then around the world with this particular problem and then find an organization that is helping to fix the problem. Not sure where to start? Do what every high school student does when writing a research paper... http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Category:Humanitarian_aid_organizations

From there the rest is up to you. You can donate. Volunteer your time. Or pray. The bigger the commitment the bigger the impact.

Until Everyone Hears,

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