Discipling, No Not Disciplining, Teenagers

When we talk about parenting teenagers, our conversations run toward the issues and discipline needed for those “troublesome” years. We forget to talk about the disciplining that needs to happen during those “transformational” years. Yes, discipleship happens through all of their lives but, it is in the teen years that we start to develop patterns that follow us into our adult life. In Deuteronomy, it instructs parents to be teaching all the time. This teaching comes in many forms from role modeling, to discussions, to lessons. So what should we be teaching in each of these forms? Role modeling good spiritual growth habits to your teen is the best way to show them how easy it can be. If we don’t make our faith the number one priority in our life, why would our teens? They should see us reading our Bible, going to church, small group, doing personal devotions. Waking up before they do and getting in your personal devotion time is great (and I know there is a season for that) but, if they aren’t seeing us doing it, it didn’t happen. Another area is going to church, I LOVE to sleep, but I make it a priority to get up early on Sundays and go to church.This is showing teens, that church is important.


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What Does Unity Look Like after General Conference 2019?

Last blog I wrote asking for prayers for the Special General Conference of the United Methodist Church that was being held in St. Louis, MO. This Conference was held to determine the United Methodist Church’s stance on homosexuality.  The General Conference is the international body of representatives of the global United Methodist Church, and it is the Church’s highest authoritative body. It sets the official positions and rules of the United Methodist Church, which are then published every four years in The United Methodist Book of Discipline. In 1972, the General Conference added the exclusion of homosexuality, stating that homosexuality “is incompatible with Christian teaching,” and forbidding clergy from performing homosexual unions or marriages, and forbidding people who are self-avowed, practicing homosexuals from serving as clergy. A special General Conference was called in St. Louis last month to hear proposals to change this position. What was called “The One Church Plan” proposed the elimination of any prohibition on homosexuality and allowed each church body, congregation, and clergy to have their own position based on their own conscience.


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Kingdom Politics

 
Yes, I used that word…a word charged with division and laden with opinions.  But, in all honesty, there are many such words in our current cultural lexicon.  The beauty of it, for Americans, is that no matter our opinions or positions, we are allowed to make our voice heard.  We can cast a vote, we can protest, we can freely speak our convictions and beliefs.
 
As with any freedoms afforded to us, responsibility follows directly behind.  The fact is, our political process carries with it consequences.  But we are not always willing to accept responsibility for the outcomes, intended or not.
 
There is an often used phrase, “Politics is downstream from the culture.”  In other words, our cultural milieu, our shared values and mores dictate the flavor and direction of our political realm.  People embedded in the culture elect leaders to represent them in government.  In theory then, these elected leaders write and pass laws that in turn reflect what the culture esteems.
 
But there is yet a higher tier.  Religion.  In the end, culture is downstream from religion.  It all begins with what we believe.  You see this truth reflected around the world.  The religious beliefs of the people form a culture that in turn creates some from of governance.  As the Judeo-Christian worldview wanes in the United States, other religions have cropped up to fill in the void.  These other worldviews then compete with Christianity in the arena of ideas for influence in the culture.  We can all feel the tension of this tussle.  We sense it all around us and see it plainly in the political world as opposing ideas seek representation. 

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Lent, what is it?

The season of Lent started this past Wednesday with Ash Wednesday. If you’re like me, you may not have grown up practicing Lent, and you might not be too familiar with it. Maybe you’ve heard of it, but you don’t really know all the ins and outs and why people observe the practice of Lent.
In general, most people think about two things when they think about Lent:
  1. seeing people on Ash Wednesday with a smudge on their forehead
  2. a season where you “give something up”

The textbook definition of Lent: Lent /lent/ noun

  1. the period preceding Easter that in the Christian Church is devoted to fasting, abstinence, and penitence in commemoration of Christ’s fasting in the wilderness. In the Western Church it runs from Ash Wednesday to Holy Saturday and so includes forty weekdays

Lent is not a new idea. In 325 AD, a bunch of Christian leaders got together at something called the Council of Nicaea. During that meeting they established a lot of things, including the way the Bible is set up, and establishing Easter as its own Christian holiday. They also discussed a 40-day season of fasting called Lent. This shows Lent is something that has been around for a very long time. What started a long time ago was really strict rules about fasting and prayer that were designed to help Christians repent of their sins and remove things from their lives that distracted them from Jesus. In today’s times, we tend to think of Lent as a time where we “give something up.” When I was younger most of what I knew about Lent was my friends couldn’t eat candy, pop, or watch TV (depending on their family). I never really connected it with the true purpose of giving up something to focus more on Christ. But Lent did not just get thrown in before Easter for no reason. It was placed there on purpose because Lent is a time of preparation for Easter. It prepares us for Easter by reminding us of how much we need Jesus.


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2019 Special General Conference Session

The special General Conference session of the global United Methodist Church met this past weekend from Friday evening through Tuesday. This special session called delegates from all over the world to St. Louis, MO, as the United Methodist Church’s top governing body to find a way forward together on the complexities of human sexuality. The General Conference body defeated all proposals to change the current stance of the United Methodist Church as outlined in the official United Methodist Book of Discipline. The United Methodist Church will continue its official position that “homosexuality is incompatible with Christian teaching,” and forbid UM clergy from being in or performing same sex unions. This decision is difficult for many United Methodists, and we all seek God’s healing and wholeness-making as we pray for God’s Spirit to keep us united in the midst of different views and understandings. The United Methodist Church’s still boldly proclaims that all people, regardless of gender or sexual orientation, are people of sacred worth and beloved children of God. You may access more information at www.umc.org/gc2019. Additionally, you may see the Bishop’s response at  https://vimeo.com/320066203.   


Praying Over the 2019 General Conference

  “I’m not praying only for them but also for those who believe in me because of their word. I pray they will be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. I pray that they also will be in us, so that the world will believe that you sent me.” -John 17:20-21   This week (Feb. 23-26), a special General Conference of the United Methodist Church will occur in St. Louis, MO. The General Conference is the top international legislative body that sets all organizational matters of the global United Methodist Church and its governing document, The Book of Discipline. Typically, United Methodist delegates gather every four years to set policy and give leadership to our denomination. At the last General Conference in 2016, the session tabled discussions on the church’s position on human sexuality in order to ask the bishops to present a way forward, since our governing body–and wider church–is so divided on human sexuality. The Council of Bishops created a 32-member Commission on a Way Forward, which has been meeting since January 2017 with a charge to “lead the church forward” amid the present impasse related to the church’s position on human sexuality and resulting questions about the unity of the church. The Commission on a Way Forward created three plans, and recommended “The One Church Plan.” The Council of Bishops supported this plan and are recommending it to General Conference session this week. The two other plans are “The Traditionalist Plan” and “The Connectional Conference Plan.” Others are bringing suggested plans to the General Conference as well.


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Created in the Image of God

“How could you think that?”
 
“Don’t get me started!”
 
“Are you an idiot?”
 
“Aaaaargh!”
 
Our current political climate can make it difficult to communicate.  One must choose one’s words very carefully for fear of offending.  We live in an era where complete strangers dig through the archives of one’s life in order to find the smallest of antisocial morsels in order to be flaunted.  The tension in the public square is prone to make many clam-up.  Standing for what one believes is becoming harder than ever.
 
Of course, our stance on political issues reflects greatly on our worldview and what we believe.  There are certain topics that transcend the bounds of pure political rhetoric and spill over into the world of right and wrong.
 
Abortion is one such issue.
 
We can debate over the way in which government operates.  We can quibble about tax rates.  We can differ when it comes to immigration policy.  But to hash out the value of human life right at the outset?  This, to me, smacks of something unalienable, something basic, something self-evident. Of course, we ought to value life.  Of course, we ought to protect the most vulnerable among us…right?
 
Nobody claims to be pro-abortion.  It is seen as a last option.  A way out of a tough situation.  We re-categorize the child as a “fetus”.  We say it is not viable.  We question their quality of life. We say it is a woman’s choice.
 

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Jesus Now What?

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
It was the summer before fifth grade, in a small white chapel. I sat on a hard wood pew. My eyes were transfixed on the elderly man drawing at the front of the room. He was explaining the story of salvation in a way I had never heard  before. He used paints and markers of neon colors and in his grandfatherly way he made the story come alive. I knew then that Jesus was real. After class he asked if anyone wanted to accept Christ as their savior. I immediately threw up my hand. Outside on a wooden bench, he prayed with me to allow Christ into my heart.
 
That day at summer camp still fills me with warmth. I made a decision that day that affected the rest of my life. But it took awhile, and I mean a long while, to understand what that decision really meant. For some, they would think that my road to being a Christian was done. In a way they would be right. I believe in one God, that He gave His son Jesus to die for us on a cross, and that after Jesus died, he rose again. Our sins our forgiven through this act. I also believe in the Holy Spirit and the Holy Trinity. That belief secures my salvation, but my story doesn’t end there. Neither does yours.
 
We now need to start living the life we profess. We obey God outwardly to reflect inwardly what’s occurred.  The Bible lays out guidelines and rules for our lives. It also gives us clear instructions on what our main objective is as Christians.

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Our World Needs You!

“We pursue the things which make for peace and the building up of one another.” -Romans 14:19
 
Our world needs you!
 
You are God’s front line against the hate that spreads. You, who have chosen Jesus, you are likewise chosen by Jesus, and sent into hostile territory. The hostile territory I’m talking about, is the moment you connect with someone else. It’s dangerous! Those other people: they don’t think like you do. They don’t believe like you do. They don’t have the same ideas, the same opinions, the same values. They don’t agree with you. And we are really struggling with how to get along with others who don’t agree.
 
Our reality is that we live in a divided and antagonistic society. Rather than trying to get along, we defiantly entrench in our stance. We vilify those who think differently. We place people who behave differently on a lower level of value. Our mind frames people with different views of the world as stupid, idiots, morons. We feel justified in insulting them, belittling them, wishing curses on them. And when we find people are wrong, we tear into them without mercy. Just follow any social media thread for more than three responses…there it is. This is the landscape of our society. And it is erupting into physical violence. Anger, hatred, pain, are spreading. And the drive beneath all of this is fear. Our society is wracked by a godless fear. 

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The Art of Discipleship

 
Humans are creative.  We like design.  We like to express ourselves.  We like to make cool things.  Just take a stroll around your neighborhood.  Notice the way people decorate their lawns.  Notice the various uses of colors and shapes.  We even try to make our front doors look aesthetically pleasing. Even in a complex of town homes, each tenant has added their own flair somehow.  Why do we do this?  Why do we feel the need to create?
           
Personally, when it comes to decorating, I could function just fine in a cinder block room.  I have very little desire to “spruce up the place.”  At the same time, in such an environment, I would spend my time reading books and writing songs and be otherwise engaged in creating and enjoying the creations of others.
 
I believe this incessant drive to create is a direct reflection of the image of God within us.  We are created in the image of our Creator and therefore, we create!   
 
Certainly, God has gifted each of us with some amount of “natural” talent.  Some develop these talents and hone their skill to the point where they can make a career for themselves.  Others prefer to create as a hobby.  Wherever you might fall on this spectrum, it is important to keep one thing in mind: You are called to create.
       

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