Wednesday, March 11, 2015

What is forgiveness?

In Luke 18:9-14, two men go into the Temple. One takes pride in himself. The other asks for mercy.
What is forgiveness? Is it something we do or something we ask of God? 
We know that only God can forgive, even the most grievous of sins. Too often we equate our emotions--what we feel--with what actually happened--what God did. If we didn't feel moved, then something is wrong.
I have only had a couple of those "heart strangely warmed" moments. But I've never doubted the work of God. In our prayer of confession we are assured by the minister, "Christ died for us while we were yet sinners."
That means that no matter what we do, we are yet saved. We are yet forgiven.
A table is still a piece of furniture. Even if it is scratched, dented, bruised, covered with permanent marker from a four and a half year old, it is yet a table. We are yet sinners, yet are we not forgiven.
That table can be smoothed, restored cleaned. And it will still be a piece of furniture at which people can share a meal, you can study, rest, or even give that permanent marker back to the four year old to make a drawing out of love.
Forgiveness is not seeking something for ourselves, but accepting what God has already given to us.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

What do you picture when you hear the word "church"?

What’s your image of the church? A steeple, a building, Sunday worship?

Mine is now a wave. A wave hello is my picture of the church.

Two Sundays ago we celebrated and remembered our baptism at all services. We had an opportunity to touch the water. I had the opportunity to help with the Young Worshippers at the church during the 8:45 service. What you do when you help out is walk with the kids into the sanctuary and back, sit with them during the children’s moments, and teach a brief lesson while the service is going on. I’ve never done it before this last year and I highly encourage you to sign up to do it at least once. Here’s why:

You get to see the congregation differently than you would sitting in the pews.

That day, Mimi Brunson, Director of Evangelism, gave the children’s sermon about church family and baptism. She had all the kids wave at the congregation. Then she had all the congregation wave at the kids.


My son, who I was lucky enough to sit by immediately then saw his preschool teacher. He saw the family that has watched him every Monday and been a part of his life since he was 6 months old. And he got excited. I was his family sitting next to him but he was so excited to see the people that he knew and he knew loved him--even at four years old.

That’s the church. That’s the reason why I’ll understand the church as a wave “hello” from now on.

I invite you to come say “Hello” to us at Peachtree Road whenever you get the chance. May God bless you in all you do.

Monday, September 22, 2014

Daily Questions: Love of Neighbor

How many email subscriptions do you receive on a daily basis? How many of them do you actually read? Do any of them actually make you a better Christian/parent/spouse/person?
I receive a lot of religion newsletters, but most seem concerned with being right, increasing traffic, or selling advertising. Very few seem concerned with deepening my spiritual life and more with keeping me as a subscriber.
John Wesley has questions that he would ask himself at the end of everyday. Every day has a different virtue and a different set of questions. It’s one thing when other people ask questions of you because you can dismiss them. It’s another thing when you ask yourself a question in the silence and solitude of meditation and reflection before your maker.
Monday’s virtue is Love of Neighbor. Here are the questions (question #7 always pushes me).
  1. Have I done anything today without considering how it might advance God’s purposes in small or large ways?
  2. Have I been quick and eager to do what good I could do this day?
  3. Have I sought God’s purposes in all my interactions with other people today?
  4. How have I sought to use this day to grow in love for my neighbor?
  5. Have I allowed myself to feel and share my neighbor’s joy and sorrow?
  6. Have I responded to my neighbor’s weakness with understanding rather than with irritation?
  7. Have I yielded to my neighbor the right to have the last word in a disagreement?
  8. What will I do to prepare for today’s virtue?

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Worry and Perspective

In Mathew’s account of the Gospel, Jesus says, “And can any of you by worrying add a single hour to your span of life?” (Mt. 6:27) 
There is a lot to worry and fret over, yet Jesus calls us to consider the lilies of the field. 
I came across a website, “Here is Today” and it puts things in perspective. All the stress and worry that I have matters to me and believe it matters to God and others in my life. But in the grand scale of life, is what I’m upset about really worth the extra energy? (A good reminder as emotions are about to be at an all time high this weekend with College Football starting back up the eminent birth of our daughter.)
Jesus goes onto say, “So do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring worries of its own. Today’s trouble is enough for today.” (Mt. 6:34)

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Heaven help us all

What is going on?

I, probably like most Americans would be fearful to admit,  get a lot of my news from my news feeds in social media. If I only follow my friends, or people I like or agree with, my view is fairly self-serving. If I am not following people who I know have different views, I am not a part of the conversation. I am part of the noise. [This is an observation of a problem.]

What is the remedy to the problem stated above? Follow more people who have differing opinions? Get off social media?

What’s going on in this world?

ISIS in Iraq and Syria. Martial Law, riots, and a police state in our own country. The death of a beloved actor.

There are countless other stories that are happening in this world that need to be told, but these three in particular stand out because they force us to face reality that we would at times rather not face.

War is real.

Racism is real.

Depression is real.

The problem is not only that these evils exist, but that people somehow now find it their job to use these things as opportunities to prove how correct they are in their thinking, and how other people are wrong.

Think about it: how many articles have you read that are trying to prove a point, that are perhaps guised as articles of awareness?

So this is a post trying to prove how right I am. Yup. I’m one those.

But I’m not trying to prove my rightness (that’s self-righteousness). I want to think deeper about the way in which God calls us to live through Christ.

Here is a question for those who consider themselves part of the Christian faith: “When did we start taking things that humans say more seriously than what Jesus said?”

Jesus says, “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God (Mt.5:9).”

But wait, didn’t Jesus also say five chapters later, “Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth; I have not come to bring peace, but a sword.”

Oops. Come on, Jesus. Be consistent. At least make it easy for us.

But that’s not the way. We’d rather be right, hiding behind the black and white, picking and choosing what works for us when convenient, rather than struggling with Christ’s words and call.

We’d rather use scripture against our enemies than let God use scripture against our own souls.

War is real.

Racism is real.

Depression is real.

We learned that this week. Did you enter into the conversation? Did you tell the truth or the convenience?

This week, our scripture for worship is Revelation 2:1-4. It talks about starting strong in the faith. But the church in Ephesus has abandoned the love they had at first. The love that they had at first was not a love for God. That was a given. Read in conjunction with Ephesians 1:15, there we read that the first love that the people there was to God and others...just as Jesus commanded.

When our love breaks down, we are left with hate. Or, as The Lumineers suggest, the opposite of love’s indifference.

Evil is real. In the Christian tradition, we call this sin. Sin is real. So is temptation.

We have lost our first love, our first call--to love God and to love other people. We enter into this fallen world and try to make it a little better with God’s help. When we insist upon our own way, we are not following our first love.

Heaven help us, when our first love is ourselves.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Start with One, near or far

Yesterday while making visits to one of our members, I met her friend who was from Turkana, Kenya. It is about a 12 hour drive from Nakura, Kenya where Start with One is based. Right now, we have a team of members over there who are "Changing the world, one life at a time..."

I have never been but to talk with the people who come back from these trips, their outlook on life has changed, their hearts are changed, their capacity to love has changed.

You don't need to go to Kenya or Honduras or The Republic of Georgia, or Nicaragua (where we have another team now). But you do need to be vulnerable. You do have to open yourself up to new experiences. You have to believe that if you fail, everything is going to be okay.

Peachtree Road UMC does amazing things in the world internationally, but also locally.

If you can't find a way to go on one of our mission trips, consider signing up for the Great Day of service next Saturday.

Yesterday, I had no idea how far Turnaka, Kenya was from Nakuru, Kenya. I do know now. But the lady who was from Kenya was overjoyed that people here were doing something.

Daris McCullough, who went with our church on a trip Kenya three years ago, once told me "People never care how much you know, until they know how much you care."

In this world, whether you are faithfully serving in Kenya, Nicaragua, Honduras, Costa Rica, the Republic of Georgia, or the state of Georgia, take time to let people know that you care.

Give all your worries and cares to God, for he cares about you. (I Peter 5:7).

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Thanks and Praise

Recently, I have found myself both on the receiving end and giving end of reference letters. It is one thing to ask for people to give honest feedback (that takes humility and a willingness to learn and hear what someone else is saying) and it is another thing to be in a position to give feedback to others.

As I write recommendations for people, I am struck by how infrequently I actually take the time to tell the people in my life what I really think and offer them thanks and praise.

It is a discipline to compliment others and say, "Thank you" or offer praise for a job well done.

But it forces each of us to think about the things we appreciate and the people we appreciate.

During Lent we talk about what we will give up. Think of ways in which this Lenten season you will take time to build others around you up and encourage them. Don't wait for them to ask for a recommendation letter. Tell someone in your life what they mean to you.

"Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing." 
(I Thessalonians 5:11)