Showing posts with label United Methodist. Show all posts
Showing posts with label United Methodist. Show all posts

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Created Good

Jan Brueghel: The Younger Creation of Adam
A fundamental aspect of how we see the world around us and how we understand Christianity stems from how we understand who we are. What is our nature as humans? If we were created by a good God why is there suffering? 

Christians for centuries have been trying to answer these questions. Many of the voices in Protestantism about human nature come from theologians around the time of the reformation. You may notice that people like John Wesley and Rob Bell have a very different perspective than your average evangelical Christian. Their theology is strongly influenced by a 3rd century theologian named Irenaeus whose work laid the foundation for the beliefs the church would grow on. There were many different sects who claimed to follow Jesus' teachings that were far from what you or I believe about God, and Irenaeus wrote directly confronting those groups and in doing so laid out a convincing perspective that continues to have appeal even today. Irenaeus had this concept that we were created good and that makes all the difference. Below is a paper I wrote attempting to explain this concept in some depth. I hope you are able to see truth in it that you have known with your life, and that you can see aspects of things you hear in a Methodist church, or even in Rob Bell's books/videos.

Monday, July 15, 2013

Getting To Know Me - Day 4 My Views on Religion

Day 4 - My Views on Religion

I have taken a Blog Challenge to blog daily for 30 days mostly about myself so that you and others can get to know me a bit better. Tell a friend about this month, or like and interact with me on my Facebook ministry page at 

Since I am in ministry I have quite a bit to say on this topic and I would be glad to answer any specific questions. For efficiency sake I am going to simply insert the paperwork that I prepared for my recent District Committee On Ministry interview for Certification as a Candidate in the United Methodist Church.

Statement of Call
Growing up our family held membership at FUMC Mansfield but rarely attended. In 6th grade the invitation came to register for Confirmation. I am still not sure why, but that year when my mom asked if I wanted to go through Confirmation, as my brother had the previous year, I responded “That seems like a big deal and I don’t think I’m ready yet.” It was not until 8th grade that I finally accepted the invitation.
I felt I was better able to understand confirmation lessons by being more mature during that process, in a way in which it really began to change and shape my life. I look back now and can see how significant of a change there was emotionally, behaviorally, and socially once God became a regular part of my life. It was this confirmation process and an invitation from my youth pastor to be a part of the youth program that really launched my participation in the life of the Church. Through heavy involvement in the youth program and direct mentoring from a new youth director, I accepted a call to youth ministry my sophomore year of high school and took on significant leadership roles as a student.
I first felt the hint of being called to more than just youth ministry in the spring of my junior year in high school. Several times, I had invited a friend of mine from the track team to come to church with me, after about a month of attending he felt compelled to be baptized. My pastor invited me forward to lay my hands on my friend during the baptism.  In that moment, I felt an overwhelming presence of the Holy Spirit that was telling me that this was what I was supposed to do with my life. In my youth, I dismissed this feeling as simply a confirmation of my call to youth ministry. It wasn’t until I really began learning about the process of ordination while at McMurry University that I came to understand this as a call to Sacrament.  However, God again guided me to the similar thought I had before confirmation, ordination is a big deal, and I wasn’t ready.
While Lay ministry has provided me with the opportunity to learn more about church work while spreading the gospel, I have learned that there is no way to satisfy that burning in my heart other than thru ordination. To delay following my call any longer would be to deny the desires that God has placed in my heart. I deeply desire to be sent as the set apart leader who brings God’s grace to new people by baptism and the grace of restoration to congregations that desire to feel the movement of the Holy Spirit as they once have. I desire to expand the kingdom of God by way of creating new opportunities for people to learn that nothing can separate us from the love of God. I desire to lead people in worship of and service to God, so that communities would be changed by a church that is relevant in people’s lives. This call on my heart has finally guided me to say that now is the right time to enter the process. I am experiencing the joy of married life, and now fatherhood, yet my heart was not settled. Where at times there has been fear or reluctance, there is now peace that only came from saying yes to God and what He has planned for my life by beginning the ordination process. I now feel confident to say that I know this is a big deal, I am ready.
When it comes down to a single definitive thing I must point to, it would be Matthew 28:19. My personal faith would not be complete if I never fulfill what God called me for years ago during my friend’s baptism. I must go and baptize, I must go and share in communion, to not would be to deny God’s call for my life making it difficult to consider myself a disciple of Christ.

Do they know God as pardoning God? Have they the love of God abiding in them? Do they desire nothing but God? Are they holy in all manner of conversations?

I feel confident responding “yes” to all of the above questions. I believe that God is merciful and have felt evidence of God’s grace and love in my life.

Have they gifts, as well as evidence of God’s Grace, for the work? Have they a clear, sound understanding; a right judgment in things of God; a just conception of salvation by faith? Do they speak justly, readily, clearly?

I feel strongly that the evidence for this set of questions rests in the answers to the questions about fruit. In my time working with Preschool children in chapel at Preston Hollow UMC I found very quickly that if I did not understand the biblical concepts of right judgment and salvation by faith, it would be impossible to communicate such profound lessons to 3-4 year olds. I have been uplifted by many for my ability to communicate the gospel in a way that people at many different life stages can understand.

Have they fruit? Have any been truly convinced of sin and converted to God and are believers edified by their service?

Not only can I answer yes there is fruit of my ministry, but I can provide names, stories, and examples. By the Grace of God, my life has served witness to have the following people make the decision to become baptized Christians: Joseph Farley, Catherine Newton, Sophia Newton; and at least the following make a clear renewal of commitment to their faith: Chris Newton, Drew Johnson Scott, Michael Conley, Alexandria Zupa, Rebecca Delflache and hopefully many more.  I strive to live a life that uplifts and encourages people, and have been a source of spiritual growth even to people that I admire for their faith.
I can, point to a trip to the Taize Monastery in southern France as my most formative faith experience. Through the unique style of worship and experience of silence, reflection, and prayer, I came to understand something different about my beliefs.  This is what I wrote in my journaling of the experience, “what was once confused as understanding is now understood to be confusion.”  What this statement represented was a shift from a black and white, cut and dry, legalistic perspective of what it means to be a Christian, to a place of constantly seeking and evaluating between what is right and wrong in my beliefs and actions. I am convinced of my beliefs in both heart and mind yet this openness has allowed me to come to grow deeper in belief and appreciation for God. I believe that we must always continue to learn. I believe that we will never perfectly understand God, mankind, or how we are to interact with each other but that perfection should be what we strive for in life.  What this has to do with my call to ministry is both spiritual and practical. In our churches when someone is seeking to grow deeper spiritually there is only so much growth through silence, self reflection or even, searching the scriptures, at some point we must get more involved. We must become more involved in our communities to be able to see how God is moving and interacting with others. We must become more involved with the un-churched to grow in our understanding of all Jesus’ references to gentiles. We must become more involved in church for our eyes to be opened to the reality of life behind the plastic smiles of those we think “have it figured out,” and to see the Pharisee in our own selves. Personally I have journeyed from saying I am a Christian, to being a church attendee, then from attendee to volunteer, from volunteer to leader, and finally from leader to staff. My faith has grown each step of the way as I have found joy in becoming more connected, have been uplifted and encouraged by others to continue in my path. That is the spiritual role of the church in my personal call. The practical role of the church in my call to ordained ministry is what District Superintendant Dr. Clara Reed once told me is the “outward call.” She explained to me that there is more to being called to ministry than how I personally feel about my call. Others in our life will see God’s plans for us sometimes before we do, and they confirm and encourage verbally what God is speaking in our hearts. In my time of working in the church, many people have provided this confirmation and encouragement of pursuing ordination as an elder.
I believe that God created and is creating still. I believe that God is truth and that God is love. God pursues a relationship with each and every person and will do anything to be with us even to the point of sending us Jesus, God made flesh, not only as the atoning and redeeming sacrifice for our sin but as the only perfect example of how to live. As a Christian my relationship with God is not merit based but a free gift of grace outside of my doing and through that relationship we are invited to be a part of what God is doing in the world. I believe God loves murderers, rapists, brutal dictators, atheists, religious people, apathetic people, and even me, yet God’s love does not look the same to all people. The world will be a better place if more people were able to recognize God’s love in their life and then respond to it through the way they live. The Gospel is social and it should affect the way we interact with each other and with God. I trust in the Holy Bible as the word of God, even though there is a lot about it that I do not understand. I believe that God brings life and that the abundant and eternal life that Jesus came to give should be lived even now. I believe that God packages a unique set of gifts in all people for them to share with the world. I believe that my gifts are best used in ministry.  My entire life God has been crafting me for this work, making me a leader with creative vision and the ability to spread this vision to others. The gift of persuasion then allows me to bring others into the process of change. God has also blessed me with the gift of preaching in a way that challenges and inspires people. I am able to identify with a wide variety of people through my life experiences which allow me to be a witness of God’s love to many people in many different circumstances. These gifts inspire me to continue following my call to ordained ministry as an elder so that I would have the opportunity and authority to bring people into the church and into closer relationship with God.
I have an amazing support system comprised of both friends and family starting first with my wife. All of our immediate family lives in the Dallas/Ft. Worth metroplex and are willing to help us in whatever way they can to help me through the ordination process and seminary. I have friends that I can trust outside of my place of work and friends that I can trust at the church that help me to accomplish the things I do.
What is the meaning and significance of the Sacraments?
The Sacraments are outward symbols of God’s love toward us and a means to God’s grace which is working within us. The Sacraments implemented by Jesus and by doing them we affirm our love for God and awareness of God’s love for us. Sacraments unify the members of the body of Christ in community with each other sharing in responsibility of strengthening each other as Disciples of Christ.
            What is your understanding of itinerant ministry?
Simply put, it means going where the bishop decides to appoint an elder for the sake of ordering the church and administering the Sacrament. Methodists began itinerate ministry for the practical reason of not having enough ordained elders for every church to have one so a pastor would be assigned a circuit of churches to ride between for a year or two and then moved to a new circuit.
            What is your understanding of baptism? Who Can Receive Baptism?
Baptism, an outward sign of inward grace, is a sacrament ordained by Jesus in which water is used and an Ordained elder says the prayer “I baptize you in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.” It represents the receiving of the Holy Spirit. Baptism is a means of grace that is a complete work of the Holy Spirit and is permanent. You cannot be un-baptized much the same as a pickle cannot become a cucumber again, therefore it must only be done once. Anyone who has not yet been baptized can receive the sacrament of baptism. 
As Always thanks for your time and giving this a read. If you enjoyed it share it with friends, you can do so easily with one of the buttons below. I pray that you will embrace life in the Love and Grace offered to you through Jesus Christ, and that you will always remember Jeremiah 29:11.  – For I know the plans I have for you declares the Lord, Plans to Proper You and not for harm, Plans with Hope for the Future.

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Pardon the crass expression but it is true.

Do you feel like young people are just impossible to connect with these days? Maybe you are a parent or a teacher who just feels like teenagers wont listen to you. Maybe you are involved with young people in another way and it seems like the generation that was born after AOL became popular is the most disrespectful people you have ever met. Maybe you are great at connecting with young people and think they are fantastic. Maybe This generation gives you hope for a better world in the future. I have no idea where in the spectrum you may find yourself. But I can offer a bit of wisdom on the subject. Hopefully you will find it useful in understanding your interactions with people under 20. Most importantly I hope it helps you evaluate yourself in a way that leads to personal growth.

To me what I am about to share is what I consider to be a leading factor in why young people are moving away from previously well established places like church.

Here it is.

Young people have been increasingly exposed to modern technology that exposes them to exponentially growing communication and information. Because sites like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, and whatever other communication or social network you can think of expose us to so many people, it is now a matter of social survival to notice pattern in order to discern between what is authentic and what is fake or sarcastic.

Basically what I'm saying is - Young people are getting better and better at smelling b.s.

Pardon the crass expression but it is true.

In a world where Facebook notifies you of each of your "friends" birthdays what significance is it when you write happy birthday on their wall? Often the only time a person communicates directly with us in a given year through Facebook is when we see this reminder. Is there really a connection through that? Most young people will acknowledge that they appreciate the gesture, but it caries little weight in knowing how that person does or doesn't value them.

Someone with the pattern of being rude, selfish, and full of pride, who has only said hello to you in the hallway at school or shared a third grade classroom with you might shoot you a message or "like" a post, or "favorite" a tweet. In that moment young people wonder what is the motive, is it to be seen as the nice person who wishes you a happy birthday? is the motive to make you think about them? is the motive selfish, or selfless. Is it an authentic connection or is it fake?

Even more confusing is the person who we know even less about or are less connected to sends us a message asking how things are going.

So when it comes to connecting with young people (especially those who cant remember the world before AOL instant messenger or cant even remember that far back) there is a constant evaluation of authenticity. There is a constant guard against the fake, phony, sarcastic, and selfish pride.

It is not until you can show them a level of consistency in who you are, and that you value who they are and not just what they can bring to you, that you will be able to connect with them on a level that serves to  impact their lives.

When you as a parent or teacher or youth worker try to have a serious conversation about God, morality, or simply respect and responsibility think first about what you have invested in connecting with them. They already have and will at best invest in what your telling them to the degree that they perceive you have invested in them.

With regard to why I think this contributes to young people leaving established churches, denominations, or religion is because there is often a disconnect between what we believe and how we live. This is inconsistency is the main red flag of something that is fake. So they begin to trust less of what/who they hear and then loose respect before disconnecting completely.

Are we ever going to be able to live 100% consistent lives probably not but I hope that this article would help to move you on toward perfection. Let us seek to live authentically and genuinely value the lives of the people we interact with if not all people. Hopefully the ever increasing ability to distinguish authenticity and depth from that which is shallow and fake will serve to move the world in a positive direction forcing us to love our neighbors just that much more.

As Always thanks for your time and giving this a read. If you enjoyed it share it with friends, you can do so easily with one of the buttons below. I pray that you will embrace life in the Love and Grace offered to you through Jesus Christ, and that you will always remember Jeremiah 29:11.  – For I know the plans I have for you declares the Lord, Plans to Proper You and not for harm, Plans with Hope for the Future.