Archive for July, 2012

 

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Making Life Matter

 

Making Life Matter is a weekly 30 minute Christian inspirational and teaching program hosted by Maxie Dunnam and Shane Stanford. Next Step partners with Kingdom Catalysts to bring you MLM, which tackles issues of faith and life in order to deepen discipleship and encourage strong connections between following Jesus and living in today’s world. Mark your calendars to visit Next Step and listen regularly. Click below to hear today’s program.

The View from Here

Wednesday, July 25th, 2012 | By Bryan Collier
Filed in: Bryan Collier, The View from Here

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The View From Here: Wisdom Comes from God

God gave Solomon very great wisdom and understanding, and knowledge as vast as the sands of the seashore. In fact, his wisdom exceeded that of all the wise men of the East and the wise men of Egypt. He was wiser than anyone else, including Ethan the Ezrahite and the sons of Mahol—Heman, Calcol, and Darda. His fame spread throughout all the surrounding nations. He composed some 3,000 proverbs and wrote 1,005 songs.  He could speak with authority about all kinds of plants, from the great cedar of Lebanon to the tiny hyssop that grows from cracks in a wall. He could also speak about animals, birds, small creatures, and fish. And kings from every nation sent their ambassadors to listen to the Wisdom of Solomon. (1 Kings 4:29-34)

That is quite an impressive set of accolades.  Not only was Solomon’s wisdom extolled but so was his fame, his writing, his speaking, and his popularity.  It is easy in the reciting of all of the accolades to miss the opening two words of the passage—“God gave…”  What a difference in the opening years of Solomon’s life when he knew where his wisdom came from and the end of his life where he began to “believe his own press clippings.”

Ministry offers us many opportunities to accumulate accolades.  If not formally through awards and recognitions, certainly we can accrue fame and popularity that unchecked can leave us believing that we are as wonderful and impressive as others say we are.

I am reminded of a story about Corrie Ten Boom, the little Polish woman who grew up hiding Jews from the Nazis and spent time in German prison camps for it.  After the war and the publishing of her book The Hiding Place she would speak and in response people would heap great compliments on her.  She never deflected the compliments in false modesty.  She simply said, “thank you” and received the compliment. “I take each remark as if it were a flower.  At the end of each day I lift of the bouquet off flowers that I have gathered throughout the day and say, ‘here you are Lord, it’s all Yours.’” (The Five Silent Years of Corrie Ten Boom, page 92)

That kind of humility and perspective never let her forget what James announces: “Whatever is good and perfect comes down to us from God our Father…” (1:17)

Few of us will ever receive the levels of fame and renown that Solomon, but those we do receive are no less a distraction that lead to self-deception.  It is with Corrie’s prayer and this truth clearly before us that we are reminded that the source of whatever attention we receive is God…who gave.  Leaders seek Wisdom, but they know where Wisdom comes from and readily acknowledge Him.

Bryan Collier

 

 

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Making Life Matter

 

Making Life Matter is a weekly 30 minute Christian inspirational and teaching program hosted by Maxie Dunnam and Shane Stanford. Next Step partners with Kingdom Catalysts to bring you MLM, which tackles issues of faith and life in order to deepen discipleship and encourage strong connections between following Jesus and living in today’s world. Mark your calendars to visit Next Step and listen regularly. Click below to hear today’s program.

“Leaving a Legacy” – July 17, 2012

I Chronicles 22 tells how King David began stockpiling materials for the building of the Temple in Jerusalem. David had been told by God that he would not be the one who would build a temple for the Lord, because of David’s many sins and many killings in war. Rather than pout about that fact, David put his energy into stockpiling materials in hopes that his son Solomon could build the beautiful Temple which was indeed accomplished under Solomon’s reign.

David understand the important of leaving a legacy. He understood that each generation should stockpile resources for the next generation. He accepted that his own failures and inadequacies would prevent him from accomplishing everything he wanted to do during his own lifetime, but he used that fact as a motivation for the future success of those who would come after him.

Perhaps ministry today in the church is not just about the NOW but is also about the NEXT. Perhaps church leaders should always be stockpiling resources (financial resources, new leadership development, strong traditions) in order to help the next generation to fulfill its own ministry.

I am finding that more and more churches and pastors are wanting to develop “succession plans” for their future. Veteran pastors want to see their churches thrive beyond their own retirement, so they are thinking ahead about how best to provide their churches with the next leaders. I applaud such thinking, but I know it takes a great deal of humility and maturity to admit that our current leadership may not accomplish everything. Accepting our own limitations, including the limitation of time, can lead us to do what King David did – to stockpile resources for the future and to leave a legacy of faithfulness.

May it be so in all of our lives and ministries.

Mike Coyner

Bishop Michael Coyner

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Making Life Matter

 

Making Life Matter is a weekly 30 minute Christian inspirational and teaching program hosted by Maxie Dunnam and Shane Stanford. Next Step partners with Kingdom Catalysts to bring you MLM, which tackles issues of faith and life in order to deepen discipleship and encourage strong connections between following Jesus and living in today’s world. Mark your calendars to visit Next Step and listen regularly. Click below to hear today’s program.

May, 2013 marks the 275th anniversary of John Wesley’s “heart warming” experience at Aldersgate in London. To celebrate this great event in Methodism, World Methodist Evangelism will be sponsoring a Wesley Heritage Tour of England. I will be leading a group and would like to invite you to join me.

Aldersgate Flame

Aldersgate Flame ~ London

As you may recall, the experience of Aldersgate, May 24, 1738, shaped John Wesley’s life. He wrote, “I felt my Heart strangely warmed. I felt I did trust in Christ, Christ alone for salvation.” A movement of renewal and vision began that continues across the globe today. On May 24, we will be joining with the “people called Methodist” to follow the steps of Wesley to Aldersgate. For 9 days we will experience the key places of the Wesleyan revival –  Wesley’s Chapel, Bristol, The Pill, Hanham Mt., and Oxford to name a few. I invite you to experience anew the heart of the Wesleyan/Methodist Movement today.

Kimberly Reisman

Kim Reisman

I will be leading a group as part of this pilgrimage. For more information, please download the brochure or email Kim Reisman. Clergy and clergy spouse scholarships are available. This is an exciting opportunity to mark a great event in our spiritual history. I hope you’ll consider joining me.

The View from Here

Wednesday, July 11th, 2012 | By John Meunier
Filed in: John Meunier, The View from Here

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My son and I were talking about church and politics the other day. He works in politics. I am a pastor. He was talking about the way he recruits people to work on campaigns and take leadership in the organization. It comes down to explaining the plan the campaign has for winning the race and asking the person to do some specific thing. Once you’ve sold them on the soundness of your plan, you don’t make an open-ended request for help, you get concrete. Can you give me $500? Can you volunteer 2 hours on Thursday? Will you commit to recruit five other volunteers to help out next week?

I told him that was very helpful as I think about the challenges of recruiting help in the church and evangelism. Can we articulate “our plan” and do we ask people to do specific things? Are we concrete enough when we make “the ask”?

And then my son followed up with his concerns.

In the church, he said, there are two problems. First, in a political campaign you have a target date. The election is coming and you have to get more than 50% of the votes by that date. It makes it easy to focus attention. Second, in politics, he said, you always know that there are going to be a lot of people who disagree with your or don’t like you.

In the church, we often are so soft about what we are doing that we can’t speak to people about concrete objectives and goals. We can’t even tell whether we are doing well because we don’t know what doing well looks like. And, my son observed, we often seem more concerned about everyone liking us than speaking what we believe.

As we chatted, I found myself thinking about John Wesley who used to preach while people threw rocks at him because he considered preaching the gospel so important that it was worth the risk.

I know many of my brothers and sisters are engaged in bold evangelism and discipleship. May more of us remember that great gift it is to value what we are doing more than we value the good opinion of other people.

John Meunier

 

 

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Making Life Matter

Making Life Matter is a weekly 30 minute Christian inspirational and teaching program hosted by Maxie Dunnam and Shane Stanford. Next Step partners with Kingdom Catalysts to bring you MLM, which tackles issues of faith and life in order to deepen discipleship and encourage strong connections between following Jesus and living in today’s world. Mark your calendars to visit Next Step and listen regularly. Click below to hear today’s program.

 

 

 

Durham Cathedral

Durham Cathedral

An Unbroken Line

In May I traveled to Durham, England to defend my thesis for my PhD, what the British call a ‘viva.’ It was a nerve-wracking several hours spent fielding what seemed like endless questions from two examiners and a (basically) silent moderator. Neither of them had ever seen my work before and my supervisor, David Wilkinson, was not allowed to be present. Quite a solitary experience, but at the same time, in an intriguing kind of way, not.

Immediately before the time of reckoning, David and I shared a coffee and then

Durham Cathedral

Durham Cathedral

headed over to the Cathedral for a short time of quiet and prayer. As we sat in that amazing environment, David began casually, but eloquently, to remind me of the history of Durham University.

Venerable Bede

The Venerable Bede

Durham has been a seat of learning for over 1000 years beginning with the Venerable Bede, whose shrine was right behind us as we sat. The tradition of scholarship has continued in an unbroken line ever since, with each new scholar meeting with more experienced scholars to discuss their work. Even though he knew I was nervous and just a bit intimidated by the process, David emphasized that I should enjoy the viva, recognizing that what I was going to experience was much bigger than my thesis. The viva, as stressful as it may feel, was the entrance into a long tradition of scholarship, the doorway into a community stretching back over 1000 years.

After a brief time of prayer, we parted ways and I walked to Abbey House to meet my examiners. During the hours that followed, though I knew it was up to me alone to defend my work, I was surprised to discover that it wasn’t such a solitary experience. Even more to my surprise was the realization, about midway through, that I was actually enjoying myself; it was invigorating.

The memory of that experience, and more specifically of my conversation with David beforehand, has returned to me frequently as I reflect on the difficulties facing the United Methodist Church. As Methodist Christians, we draw upon the insights of John Wesley (and Charles too), which is a wonderful thing. But that’s not who we follow. We follow Jesus Christ. Our tradition didn’t begin in the 18th century; it began in the first. Our creed isn’t the misnamed ‘Wesleyan Quadrilateral,’ it’s the Nicene.

Kim Reisman

Kim Reisman

Just as my viva experience was bigger than my own thesis, we Methodist Christians are part of something much larger than our own history, much more foundational than any structure we might devise for our denomination, and deeper, more steadfast and enduring than any passing cultural norm could ever be. We are part of a magnificent Christian tapestry, woven from the threads of Scripture and a tradition stretching back over 2000 years. Our Methodist strands augment that tapestry, but not in the sense of adding something new or different. Those threads augment the tapestry by adding complementary colors to the already existing pattern. Some people describe it as following Jesus in the spirit of the Wesleys. In my family we call it being a Christian with a Wesleyan accent.

I have no doubt that as people who follow Jesus in the spirit of the Wesleys, we will survive our current challenges. But it will not be because we have created something new, but because we have rediscovered the rich tapestry of Christian faith that is richer and more vibrant than our few threads alone.

Higgs Boson and God’s Remarkable Universe

Higgs boson

Higgs Boson

 

Before I get too far into my musings, I need to admit that I know virtually nothing about Higgs, physics or bosons of any kind. And my understanding of the working of the universe is inversely proportionate to my awe and wonder at its magnificence. That being said, I’ve really enjoyed the excitement over the Higgs boson ‘discovery.’

It began about two weeks ago when John and I were visiting the National Portrait Gallery in Edinburgh, Scotland where we stumbled upon the Pioneers of Science exhibit that included a portrait of Peter Higgs.

Peter Higgs

Peter Higgs - Lucinda L. Mackay, artist

The caption read, ‘The theoretical physicist Peter Higgs is known for the particle named after him – the as yet undiscovered Higgs boson.’ Here was a man who had a particle named after him that hadn’t even been discovered yet. I thought that was pretty amazing.

When I arrived in Durham for my graduation festivities, I mentioned my excitement about seeing Higgs’ portrait to my supervising professor, David Wilkinson. David has been an amazing source of wisdom and guidance to me as I’ve worked toward my PhD.

David Wilkinson

David Wilkinson, Principal, St. John's College, Durham University

 

With a PhD in theoretical astrophysics and a PhD in theology, you can imagine how intriguing our conversations have been over the years. At any rate, David told me more about Higgs, but added that his boson was no longer theoretical. In the next several weeks, he said, there would be an announcement confirming the existence of Higgs boson.

And now of course, everyone is talking about Higgs boson. The connections continue – this morning our local paper reported that the parents of one of my youngest daughter’s soccer teammates, both physicists, have been intimately involved in the CMS experiments leading up to the discovery. Who knew?

I’m not sure why I’m so intrigued with Higgs boson. Actually, it’s not the particle itself or the theories that explain it that has captured my imagination – that would require me to actually understand all this stuff. What has captured my imagination is the process that led up to the final confirmation by the scientific community that Higgs was correct – there really is a Higgs boson.

That kind of process is about the whole idea of knowing something, or intuiting something, or being convinced of something – and then asserting it, laying claim to it, standing by it – having faith in it – in the face of doubt or skepticism, and without absolute proof. That captures my imagination because it reminds me so much of the life of faith.

Being a Christ follower is in large part about laying claim to something in the face of doubt or skepticism and without absolute proof. It’s about living with confidence in the loving work of the creator God who is so much bigger than our limited ability to understand – a God wise enough to create something as amazing a Higgs boson and generous enough to give humans the ability to ‘discover’ it.

Kimberly Reisman

Kim Reisman

But being a Christ follower goes even beyond that. It’s not limited to the ‘how’ of the universe – even though astounding developments in science like the Higgs boson definitely point to how awe-inspiring and remarkable God’s universe really is. At its heart, being a Christ follower involves the ‘why’ of the universe. It’s about laying claim to the (as yet ‘undiscovered’ by some) truth that in creating the universe, God has actively entered into the space and time of that universe – transcending it, but also engaging it and relating to it in a personal way.

For Christ followers, the how of the universe may involve Higgs bosons and all manner of other fantastic things, but the ‘why’ of the universe involves relationship and covenant. Our God is the source of all creation and is irrevocably connected to its unfolding history. That’s why it’s impossible to fully understand the universe without reference to its intimate and essential connection to God. Not only that, but as Christ followers we believe that Jesus Christ is at the center of all this amazing creative activity. He is the means through which the Creator and covenantal God is supremely known. Jesus as the ‘image of the invisible God,’ (Colossians 1.15) – the projection of God into the dimensions of space-time in a way that reveals God’s true nature.

That’s a lot to lay claim to in the face of doubt, skepticism and without any absolute proof. But I like to think of myself as a theological or spiritual Peter Higgs. He might not appreciate that comparison since he’s an atheist, but I still like it. He asserted something he truly believed in, despite skepticism and doubt, despite numerous other theories being offered in opposition in that they depended on there being NO Higgs boson, despite 50+ years of inability to confirm his assertions – until one day…

We Christ followers are spiritual/theological Peter Higgs. We lay claim to a truth greater than many can grasp – greater than we ourselves can grasp. But one day…

 

 

Therefore, God elevated him to the place of highest honor and gave him the name above all other names, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. (Philippians 2.9-11)

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