Sunday, August 12, 2018

Reflections From Sunday Evening

So which of these ideas come first?
God expects more from me or God desires more for me?
I believe both of these statements are true.  Considering all the blessings we enjoy it only stands to reason that God has high expectations of us, His people.
But God is not an overly demanding God who we are eternally unable to please.  God desires much more for us.  When we consider the goodness and blessings of life we must realize we have only begun to scratch the surface of what God desires for us, His people.
What are some of the things God desires for us.  God desires for us to be forgiven of our sins and to know it.  God desires us to live an abundant life.  God desires for us to know fulfillment in serving Him and others.  God desires for us to inherit eternal life and enjoy Him forever.  This could go on and on and on.
At the same time God has high expectations for us.  Certainly we emphasize grace.  Grace is the free gift of God.  We cannot earn it nor do we deserve it.  But we live in and by grace.  This does not mean once we taste of God's grace there are no moral, ethical, or practical expectations.  In the old days (really old days) people that approached the life of faith in this manner were engaged in antinomianism.  They believed and lived as if grace eliminated any expectations or actions.  Oops.
I am not sure what the key to this is but I think I would begin with seeking to better grasp the truth that God wants much more for me.  The riches of His grace -- the fullness of His Spirit -- perfects us in love and expands life eternally. 
With this abounding love and grace come great expectations.  We seek God's will, plans, and purpose.   We seek to honor and serve the Lord each day in every way.
Truly, God expects more from us and desires more for us.
It's been a good day.  I hope you've had a good day too.
steve

Sunday, August 5, 2018

Reflections From Sunday Evening

We just got home from a weekend with family in St. Louis.  It is always fun to hang out with the "kids".  They took me to the art gallery!  Also visited the Cathedral Basilica.  Wow.  Took in some blues music. 
Something I really enjoyed was our trip to "Bridge Bread" on Cherokee Street.  Rev. Kathleen Wilder, pastor of Lafayette Park UMC, inspired this ministry with the homeless in their mission field.  They developed a great bakery that is continuing to expand.  They are aiding people to escape the streets and earn a living wage through Bridge Bread.  Check out their website, www.bridgebread.org.  Insipiring.
Today we worshiped at Morning Star UMC.  This is one of our fastest growing churches in Missouri.  It was great to be there.  Kudos to Keith Scarborough who preached today.  I had Keith in a class I taught.  He is a joy to be around and it was a blessing to worship with him today.
Well, that catches you up with me.  Tomorrow it is off to do some ministry with our conference board of Ordained Ministry.  I will be participating in a pilot project for clergy renewal. 
It's been a good day.  I hope you've had a good day too.
steve

Sunday, July 29, 2018

Reflections From Sunday Evening

In the church world we are continually reading articles and hearing podcasts that address the sagging church attendance in America.  Is this a truly Post-Christian era?  What contributes to the decline in people participating in worship? 
Even Fox News speaks to the issue.  In an article by Chris Sonksen we read an opinion: Americans still believe in God. So why do so many of us see the church as just optional rental car insurance?
A Pew Research survey notes that 80% of American believe in God.  There are many differences in how this looks and yet a basic faith endures.  At the same time Americans are leaving the church.
The article suggests this may be tied to unrealistic and unhealthy expectations.  When the church does not deliver precisely what is desired people opt out.  Why not?  We can live stream the services.  We can watch really good communicators on T.V.  Why not stay home and do our own thing?
Here is why.  Community.  We are meant to love God, serve God, and grow in God with one another, not in solitary means.
John Wesley spoke to the early Methodists and perhaps it will serve us well to reclaim this spirit.
"Solitary religion is not to be found there.  Holy Solitaries is a phrase no more consistent with the gospel than Holy Adulterers.  The gospel of Christ knows no religion, but social; no holiness but social holiness.  Faith working by love, is the length and breadth and depth and height of Christian perfection."   (John Wesley, Hymns and Sacred Poems, quoted in an article written by Steven Manskar).
This quote has been used by some to suggest Wesley was calling for social justice as we understand it today.  This is not the case.  Wesley was reminding the Methodists that we live in community together.  Social holiness means we meet together and worship the Lord. 
How will we re-discover this truth and practice in our day?  One person at a time.  I discover the power in living in community with other followers of Jesus.  Then another and another and another.  I trust the day comes when the tide turns.  Once again the power of the gospel rises up and the people of God move into the future.
It's been a good day.  I hope you've had a good day too.
steve

Sunday, July 22, 2018

Reflections From Sunday Evening

The weekend was a joy!  We were reminded of how God is working in our Youth program.  Their witness is a joy to all.  We were encouraged to be encouragers. 
There were some things to learn from the call of Jeremiah.  Think about what this means for you.  Before God formed you in your mother's womb, God knew (or chose) you.  God set you apart.  God appointed you to...
The story of our faith continues to be written.
On another note...
I heard Joan Boatwright Wood, the president of the Foundation for Evangelism, speak at the Course of Study graduation.  The Foundation is working on equipping people to share the faith in the spirit of E. Stanley Jones.  (Google him.  He was a tremendous Methodist Missionary and Evangelist who spent most of his life in India...a fascinating story)
The method of evangelism advocated is three-part.  1. Relationship.  We build relationships with non-Christians.  2. Engagement.  We listen and share life.  3.  Dialogue.  We share our faith.  We talk through questions.  We do not push our ideas on others but enter into conversation.  Give it some thought.
On another note...
Spent the day at the K.  Royals win.  Nothing like watching Drew Butera get an inside the park home run.  A fun day.  Thanks Marty!
It's been a good day.  I hope you've had a good day too.
steve

Sunday, July 15, 2018

Reflections From Sunday Evening

Friends.  It is always good to catch up with our friends.  Today Clayton and Lori Smith visited church and we went to lunch together.  Clayton recently retired from his executive pastor position at Church of the Resurrection.  We go back many years in ministry and friendship.  Lori was our administrative assistant in the Southeast District when I was the Superintendent there.  It was great to see her today.  Friends.
From there Cindy and I went to Oak Grove for our friend Anne's surprise birthday.  It was not much of a surprise but it was great to be there. In addition her boys were all there with their families.  Shane was in our first confirmation class in the church we started.  We have known their family for over thirty years.  Friends.
We gather each weekend and spend time with friends.  Some are old friends, some are new friends.  The true greatness comes when we are friends in Christ.  Faith connects.  Faith unites.  Friends.
Another aspect of friendship is our friendship with Jesus.  The Lord spoke to his disciples (friends) and took their relationship to a new level. 
"I no longer call you servants...instead, I have called you friends..." (John 15:15)
Friends.  For many of us Jesus is an old friend we always enjoy being with.  For many Jesus is a new friend and a relationship is being forged.  For some...Jesus wants to call you friend.
It's been a good day.  I hope you've had a good day too.
steve

Sunday, July 8, 2018

Reflections From Sunday Evening

Here's a thought.  25 years from now Christianity in North America is growing and being driven by a revitalized Wesleyan Movement.
Millions of people are awakening to the fact that there is something terribly flawed about human nature (original sin) but at the same time totally redeemable.
These same people are discovering the God given possibility of responding to the grace of God that is continually moving and stirring in the soul.
People are coming to the astounding realization that God has acted decisively in Jesus Christ and opened the way for any and all to enter into a relationship with Jesus Christ.
People are overwhelmed by the good news of the Gospel and exercising their freedom to choose the way of Jesus.
People are excited about discovering that all that separates them from God (sin) and all that diminishes them is forgiven and they are on a path to abundant and eternal life.
The Church is vitally involved in caring for hungry people, giving drink to the thirsty, clothing the naked, and visiting the sick and imprisoned. (see Matthew 25)
People are exhibiting a level of generosity that is unprecedented in history.
Vital worship is happening in every place.
People are taking their faith into the world and being servants to those in need.
Day dream?  Wishful thinking? Vision? A faithful hope?
You be the judge.
It's been a good day.  I hope you've had a good day too.
On another note...
Platte Woods Church holds Vacation Bible School beginning tomorrow (Monday).  Over 500 children with another couple of hundred volunteers will be touched by God's grace.  Pray for all involved in this great week.
blessings,
steve

Sunday, July 1, 2018

Reflections From Sunday Evening

I have been pondering a thought.  I mentioned it today in the message.  I recognize there are many perspectives from which to look at our world.  Among those perspectives is the Christian view.  I believe our perspective on things is vital.  Here is the thought.
"When a people loses reverence for God, they lose civility with people."
Every day someone writes or broadcasts something about the lack of civility in our society.  We mock each other.  We call names.  We find fault.  We point fingers.  Each time we engage in these behaviors we contribute to the lack of civility in our society.
Who is going to change this?  Who will help our culture turn the corner?  Consider our Christian perspective.  There is a passage in I Peter. (I Peter 4:17)  It sounds judgmental but take it to heart.
"For it is time for judgment to begin with God's household..."
Here is my slant on the passage as it speaks to our setting.  Lack of civility in our culture begins with the people of God.  The Church must stop acting like those who do not know the grace and mercy of Jesus Christ.  When we stop criticizing.  When we stop accusing.  When we stop finding fault.  When we stop pointing fingers, we will be able to find God doing a new thing.  When we contribute to civil discourse and loving one another, we will become a light in the darkness.  We have the opportunity to effect change in our society.  However, we will not make a difference if we continue to mimic the world.  We are better than this. 
In a devotion by Tim and Kathy Keller, they spoke to this issue.  Their call: "Despise no one, respect everyone."
How's that for an assignment for the week.
It's been a good day.  I hope you've had a good day too.
steve