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Not For United Methodist Christians Only, part 5

Rick Pierson speaks for many of us, maybe most of us, when he wrote this yesterday about our United Methodist General Conference 2019 (meeting today through Tuesday, February 26, in St. Louis). I thank him for graciously giving me permission to share this with you here today  —

I’ve gone to a Methodist church since I was 4 or 5, I feel like I’m sitting in the basement hearing a tornado ripping stuff apart outside and that we are just anxious to see how bad the damage is.

Regardless of how this vote goes there will be people leave the church, there will be people very unhappy and afterwards the church will rebuild. It’s not the first major social issue the church in the US had weathered and probably won’t be the last.

To me it’s just a matter of waiting to see what kind of damage we have to deal with when the storm passes.

—- How’s that go again, the disciples were in a boat with Christ Jesus and a storm came up and scared them? Yeah. I admit to being scared right now. Maybe you are, too.

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Not For United Methodist Christians Only, part 4

I love this (it’s from http://www.umc.org), so I’ll get out of the way —

Throughout the Bible, God surprises people. Through the prophets, God said unexpected things to kings, judges and other religious leaders. The teachings of Jesus often confounded the disciples, Pharisees, and others who thought they knew God’s Law well. Paul, the author of much of the New Testament, began as a persecutor of the church, convinced that was God’s will.

Today, we may feel fairly certain we know exactly how God wants this [General Conference, February 23-26, 2019, in St. Louis] to turn out, what Jesus would have us do, and where the Spirit is leading us. But remember God continues to surprise us.

Spend time with some Scriptures of surprise. As you read, put yourself in the place of those who think they know what God will do, but are surprised.

— And here are some of those “Scriptures of surprise” for your prayerful consideration —

1 Samuel 3:1-11
1 Kings 19:9-13
Isaiah 55:6-11
Matthew 25:1-13
Matthew 25:31-46
Luke 1:46-55
John 2:13-25
Acts 3:1-10
1 Corinthians 2:6-16
1 Corinthians 3:18-23

— I hope to look at these 10 “Scriptures of surprise” with you in the future. Meanwhile, which one will you start with today?

As always, I’d love to hear from you, in any of the usual ways we communicate now, and I’ll see you back here tomorrow.

Not For United Methodist Christians Only, part 3

I see a pattern here. Maybe you do as well —

A gossip betrays a confidence; so avoid anyone who talks too much. Proverbs 20:19 

A perverse person stirs up conflict, and a gossip separates close friends. Proverbs 16:28

Without wood a fire goes out; without a gossip a quarrel dies down. Proverbs 26:20 

A gossip betrays a confidence, but a trustworthy person keeps a secret. Proverbs 11:13

The words of a gossip are like choice morsels; they go down to the inmost parts. Proverbs 18:8

Keep your tongue from evil and your lips from telling lies. Psalm 34:13

— From our official site: “You may read about General Conference 2019 on social media or secular news. Before responding or reacting, be sure to check the facts. The United Methodist Church has an informative website where you can learn more. Go to http://www.umc.org/GC2019.”

Let’s be clear: http://www.umc.org/GC2019 will be accurate. And I’ll stop right there.

See you back here tomorrow.

Not For United Methodist Christians Only, part 2

WARNING: Prayer Requests Ahead.

From http://www.umc.org — “On February 23, elected United Methodist delegates along with our bishops will gather in St. Louis, Missouri, for a called special session of General Conference. The goal of the meeting is to find a way forward through our disagreements about same-sex marriage and ordination of LGBTQ clergy.”

Please join with innumerable others globally in praying as that official site reminds us —

Pray for your delegates. Your annual conference has elected delegates, half who are clergy and half who are laypeople. Pray for them by name: ours are 

LAITY

Rhonda Whitaker

Bunny Wolfe

Kimberly Woods

Steve Schonert

Larry Weber

Marian McCray, Alternate

Anish Hermon, Alternate

Carol Sims, Alternate 

CLERGY

Sylvester Weatherall

Andy Adams

Sara Isbell

Chris Ritter

Bob Phillips

Randy Robinson, Alternate 

Roger Ross, Alternate

Janice Griffith, Alternate

Then pray for the rest of the delegates coming to St. Louis from all over the world to make these important decisions for the church.

Pray for your bishop. Bishop Frank Beard leads the Illinois Great Rivers Conference. Bishops do not vote at General Conference, but they lead the sessions. It can be a very taxing job to manage the legislative process of more than 800 delegates.

Be sure to include the other bishops in your prayers as well.

Pray for support staff. Holding a General Conference takes the work of many behind-the-scenes people. Lift them up in prayer as well. There are long, tiring days ahead for them. Pray for the Holy Spirit to grant them strength.

Pray for your church. Remember to pray for your pastor, staff and members who are answering questions. Pray also for your denomination The United Methodist Church as we wrestle with these disagreements.

Join the UMC prayer initiative. Upper Room is leading us in prayer at umcprays.org. You can sign up to receive prayer posts that guide us in praying for The United Methodist Church during this time.

I’m joining you in prayer, and look forward to seeing you back here tomorrow.

Not For United Methodist Christians Only, part 1.

WARNING: Prayer Request Ahead.

Your body has many parts—limbs, organs, cells—but no matter how many parts you can name, you’re still one body, it’s exactly the same with Christ. Our old friend St. Paul wrote that in 1st Corinthians 12.

“Last time I checked, we’re all on the same team.” You might have heard me say that about our various Christian denominations.

It’s not a glib statement; it’s the truth.

Having had the honor of working for over forty years with a wide variety of pastoral colleagues and churches of numerous stripes and spots, I still maintain that “we’re all on the same team.”

That’s all about to be tested. That’s why I’m about to ask you to pray.

In a few days, Saturday through Tuesday, February 23-26 to be exact, my family, The United Methodist Church, is having what could be the most significant weekend in our lifetimes.

“On February 23, elected United Methodist delegates along with our bishops will gather in St. Louis, Missouri, for a called special session of General Conference. The goal of the meeting is to find a way forward through our disagreements about same-sex marriage and ordination of LGBTQ clergy.” 

That’s from our official United Methodist site. I’m planning you and I’ll spend some time and space here on it over this next week.

For now, please join me and untold others in praying for, about, and with the participants of this General Conference.

“Last time I checked, we’re all on the same team.” Or as our old friend St. Paul wrote, you’re still one body. May that continue to be true.

And I’ll see you back here tomorrow.

We Want to See

“We want to see Jesus,” they said in John 12:21.

They still do.

But too often, we —
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When You Have Trouble Hearing God

Brent Mustoe is a colleague and friend with whom I go all the way back to my first two years in seminary. You’d absolutely love this guy! He wrote this recently (highlights are mine) and has graciously given me his expressed permission to share it with you —

Went to my audiologist this last week. Got my hearing aids adjusted. They work fine unless I am talking to a soft talker. Even with hearing aids, it’s difficult to hear a soft talker.

This is where my remote for my hearing aids becomes indispensable. With the remote, I can turn up the volume on my hearing aids and hear even the softest soft talker.

I’ll admit, there are times I wish I had a spiritual remote. You know, so I could turn up my spiritual hearing while in prayer.

Want to know a secret? Sometimes while praying, okay a lot of times while in prayer, when I am silently meditating, I hear…nothing. Nada. God is silent.

I hate silence. I suppose that’s why I have so much trouble meditating. I mean, what’s the point if I am just sitting there in silence, listening to my own thoughts.

However, there have been times when I really concentrate while meditating, entering into the scripture I just read, I have felt God’s voice and acted on it.

I wish those times were more consistent in my prayer life. But I don’t think the trouble is God, but rather my inability to listen deeply.

All this does not happen overnight. It takes time to learn to listen deeply as we continue to meditate in prayer.

If we are honest, most of us don’t take time to listen at all. We say our prayers and then get up and leave God hanging. It’s not that God doesn’t speak to us, we just don’t take time to listen.

So let’s turn up our remotes, and spend time listening for God’s voice in meditation, listening quietly, deeply and without distractions.

Don’t give up. Remember, it doesn’t happen overnight. It takes time to develop a life of prayer.

And who knows, maybe in the stillness of our hearts, we’ll hear the voice of God and act accordingly.

Amen?