Monthly Archives: April, 2012

Grappling with What Our Global Church Structure Will Look Like!

Welcome back to Lift Up Christ. The world you and I were born into has changed and continues to change. All kinds of structure issues face our world wide church of twelve million in forty countries. What is obvious is that the church’s structure of the past won’t be the church structure in the future. How do we hold onto the best of the past while adapting the church to the challenges of the twenty first century? Our Bishop Grant in his blog entitled Direction says today : “To truly energize and enliven our church we must focus on our mission, not our structure. We cannot ignore our structure, but if we are to turn around our church into a vital and thriving denomination, then it must be mission that is our central focus. Mission forms the heart and soul of the Gospel mandate, and that is why we are in existence as a church.” 

This is part of the new birthing of The United Methodist Church, you and I have dreamed about! How do we structure a USA dominated church of the past into a worldwide church where all the countries operate on the ‘same level playing field’? Very complex. Restructuring has to do with equal representation of all countries involved, has to do with reallocation of finances, and support systems to countries where the Gospel and church are really growing.  More about this later.

Enough of this serious stuff. Let’s party. Tonight, during dinner 3,000 people in three ballrooms celebrated with seminarians from all of our many seminaries. In the ballroom were six food bars. We served ourselves, talked with upcoming men and women training to be pastors, and listened to various music groups from church related colleges perform and praise the Lord. Colorful banners hung around us showing us the upcoming generations and the way they want to serve Jesus Christ.

I talked with three delightful young people from Wesley Theological Seminary in Washington DC. Talk about feeling old—-ha! The pic here is from the left to right David, Andy, and Jennifer. I asked them all kinds of questions, about John Wesley, their call to follow Jesus, and how they think the UMC will change over the years.  The only thing that concerned me were the stoles around their necks. More about this later.

After dinner, I sat in the plenary while they discussed more about what they think the new worldwide United Methodist Church will look like.

I’m out of gas, so to speak.  I spoke with Pete Collard about some blog problems, and got the blog going again.

Tomorrow The Holy Spirit has another spirit stretching day.  It’s getting more and more spiritually exciting to be here.  Thanks again to you in Ritzville for allowing me to have this life time experience.  Have received over eighty hits on this site today.

Okay, Lord Jesus what do you have it store for us tomorrow? This song maybe is what GC and each of us need as we lay our heads down:

Alpha and Omega-“He is Alpha and Omega the beginning and the end. He’s behind me, He’s before me, He’s ever my friend. Whatever I do, wherever I go, Jesus is our source and our goal.”  Stay tuned!

Fresh Music Yes-Stale Music No!

During lunch this afternoon I came across this music group singing. They are from Africa. Their singing absolutely grabbed me.

I asked myself: “Why is their music so attractive and engaging?” Sometimes we think music has everything to do with culture. Yes, culture certainly influences music; African, Asian, Latin, or whatever. Yet as the music connected with my soul-suddenly the obvious came to me.

Their music leaped out from their conversion to Christ! They sang of sin changed lives; they sang “O Happy Day”-another reference to their joy in finding The Christ who found them.

While it’s true there is stale bread or food, it also might be true there is “spiritually stale music.”

The sad reality may be that after we come to the saving knowledge of Christ our conversion experience becomes stale. We lose the excitement and conviction of The Holy Spirit. Haven’t we all had times when we get inspired by the Holy Spirit, excited, enthused, and come back all ready to change? Then within a very short time-we lose that spiritual high within our soul.

John Wesley was himself concerned about how we approach praising God. In the front of our United Methodist Hymnal Wesley gives detailed instructions about how to sing. Oh friends let us sing from our souls hanging on and keeping fresh by remembering our conversion.

Thank you O Lord for music that springs from a changed heart, mind, and soul!  Keep your conversion to Christ in mind the next time you sing in worship or your private time with Jesus!

Yes for “Spiritually Fresh Music!”  Save us O God from stale music!

Here We Go: On Final Decisions for Legislation!

Welcome to Lift Up Christ.  What would John Wesley possibly say as we honor Jesus Christ, this the start of the final week of  the 2012 GC?

” Preach the Word: be prepared in season and out of season: correct, rebuke, and encourage-with great patience and careful instruction. For the time will come when people will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths. But you, keep your head, in all situations, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, discharge all the duties of your ministry (2 Timothy 4: 2-5).”      Doctrine matters.

Attended the Renewal-Reform Coalition briefing breakfast. Around my break-table were six Nigerians, who announced that in their Christian hometown – Muslim bombers struck. How sad! We so take religious freedom for granted in this country.

Tom Lambrecht’s began the briefing: “We are ahead at this stage of GC. Legislation votes in the majority of issues favor apostolic doctrine.” Right now I’m not going to report on all these issues. You can go to The Good News web site for General Conference for more details.

Am in GC plenary. Just voted to not approve a “Set Aside Bishop” for the UMC. This would have created a type of CEO Bishop to speak for the UMC throughout the world, who is not tied to a certain residence or annual conference. This is a change to our church’s constitution. It didn’t pass because the vote has to be 2/3 of all GC voters.

Now voting on Judicial Council Elections. Judicial Council is the supreme court of The UMC.  One of two lay persons just elected-Oswald Tweh is evangelical-praise God. Kurt Glassco, another evangelical was elected as an Lay Alternate. Now voting on clergy for judicial council. Now voting for clergy for judicial council. Wow-both clergy just elected are evangelical. Dennis Blackwell and Kabamba Kiboko.

Wow. The petition regarding term limits for Bishops has come up again. A lot of questions and debate. Put off till after lunch.

It seems like it’s slow going.  Yet  O Lord, YOU are sovereign-nothing misses your attention. So as we break for lunch I’m reminded of a favorite song of thanks- “His Name is Jesus, Jesus, sad hearts weep no more. He has healed the broken hearted, open wide the prison door, He is able to deliver ever-more.”    Even here at GC.  Lunch time!  Stay tuned.  Big decisions coming up this afternoon!

Time for lunch!

Praise God for Faithful Biblical Laity Like Margaret!

Welcome back to Lift up Christ! The sixth day of  the 2012 General Conference of The United Methodist Church.

I want to reflect on the first 6 days of General Conference. I just don’t want to reflect on what’s happened but I want to comment on what possibly lies ahead!  What do I sense about the Holy Spirit and what is beginning to come out of the legislative committees.

Today as I worshipped I visited with a lovely couple from Hyde Park United Methodist. Her name was Margaret. I said, “Margaret, what makes being United Methodist so special?” Without hesitating she looked me square in the eye and repeated: “Christ in me the hope of glory (Colossians 1).”  Wow, what an amazing statement.          

The hope of Christ’s Body here on earth (of which the United Methodist is a part), is best seen not first in the clergy but in laity like Margaret and Roy. If Pastors are doing their job  then the result is faithful laity.  Believers who are biblically literate. Believers who know the emphasis is not in worshipping the church but instead worshipping Christ, the head of His Church. First things first. This is what Martin Luther and then John Wesley so emphasized!

What is my sense of General Conference 2012 so far?  I sense the Holy Spirit is doing what is described to the prophet Joel in 2:28:  “And afterward, I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your old men will dream dreams, your young men will see visions.”

 “O God as we lay our heads down tonight-we seek your Holy Blessings for General Conference tomorrow as they begin making final decisions tomorrow. These decisions will not only effect the present twelve million who presently make up the UMC but will also effect the future of the UMC for years to come.” We ask this in the precious name of Jesus Your Son – Amen. Stay tuned!

God Speaks…Money Talks!

Welcome back to the sixth day of the 2012 General Conference of the worldwide UMC.  Nothing officially happening today except evening worship.

Went to Hyde Park United Methodist for worship. Dr. William Willimon, bishop of The North Alabama Conference preached.  Before elected bishop in 2004 he was Dean of the Chapel and Professor of Christian Ministry at Duke University, Durham, North Carolina. He has written over sixty books, and recently was named as one of the top twelve most effective preachers in the English speaking world. Oh how the Holy Spirit spoke through this brother in Christ. Evangelical through and through. His message pointed out that “we are not to believe in Deism but many in the United Methodist Church do.” Deism believes God created the world and then left the world for us to carry on. He chided the self help theology thinking that all we have to do is work out our salvation. We are not called to first be doers but disciples who believe that Jesus Christ truly is the Good Shepherd, who will guide us as we listen to his voice and follow him. Went out for a short walk in between the two services I attended.

Ten minutes from Hyde Park I looked up and saw numerous steeples with the Islamic sickle on top. This massive building used to be The Plant Hotel, built by Henry Plant, railroad tycoon.  After his death the hotel lost some importance and the City of Tampa had to figure out what to do with it. Bingo-it became the home of Tampa University. On top of the hotel / school are numerous minarets and on top of each minaret is a sickle symbol. Wow somewhat different to see an Islamic symbol on top of the American flag pole. Guess what the name of the University of Tampa’s Magazine is? The Minaret. Can’t help but make a person scratch his/her head. Maybe Henry Plant was influenced by Islam. Respectfully, in looking at the early photos of this hotel in Platt’s day I didn’t  see these symbols or minaret/sickle symbols on top of the hotel towers. So were these symbols added as part of the restoration monies the school and community received to restore this gorgeous building?  Thank God we do have freedom of religion in this blessed country. What’s my point?

Like in Christ’s day we live in a time where there are many wanna be gods competing for the attention of people.  Yet, with humility as believers in the Judaeo Christian Faith we maintain there is but one true living God.  Jesus was right on when he declared:”No one can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money (Matt 6:24).”

Only God speaks, money talks!   Tomorrow the General Conference shifts into high gear with many important happenings.   Stay tuned!


Tampa is Beautiful Because God is Beautiful!

Decided to take a break from tracking General Conference doings after this morning’s time with Good News and The Renewal Coalition.

Ended up at the Tampa Bay History Center. Before going into the museum I noticed a large crowd with music and festivities. Today is the annual Dragon Boat Racing Day. A dragon boat is fifteen to twenty feet long containing fifteen (better be in shape) folks with short hand oars guided by one in the back guiding the rudder. Probably five hundred people as teams competing for the honor of having the fastest people powered boat. Wow-I thought this is what General Conference should be like. Different people all rowing together for the common goal of reaching people  for Jesus Christ and the transformation of the world.

Leaving this local culture what fun lies next?  The Tampa Bay Asia Fest. For lunch I had a great Asian chicken sauce poured over brown rice. Found some needed shade and enjoyed seeing Asian musicians-children dancing all dressed up in their ethnic heritage. O Lord how beautiful your creation can be when guided by mutual love and respect. The question for we the church is: can we hear the Lord’s music? Can we follow the Lord of the dance into mission throughout the world?

I then headed over to the Tampa History Center. Got some head and heart info as to the history of this part of Florida. The Spanish, then the French, then the Europeans all interacting with the native Seminole and Miccoosnkee natives-sometimes good, sometimes bad.   On the third floor of the building they had a most interesting exhibit entitled: ” Spies, Traitors, and Saboteurs-Fear and Freedom in the USA.”  A very well done historical exhibit on how down the years we have tried to balance justice with political freedom of expression.

Leaving the area I walked backed to the parking lot and a small water park only to see beautiful little ones running in the water fountains. Laughter and joy are wired into us by our wonderful heavenly Father. What does this image speak of?  Jesus says:“Whoever believes in me, as the Scriptures has said, streams of living water will flow from within him (her).”

O Lord what a beautiful afternoon.

Tomorrow I am off to two worship services. Various bishops will be preaching at various local UMC churches. The bishops I would like to hear at an early and then traditional 11 o’clock time are bishops Will Willimon and  Scott Jones.

Thanks for following Jesus with me this week!  The best is yet to come.  Stay tuned!

We’re In the Presence of The Lion and The Lamb!

Welcome back to day five of The General Conference of The United Meth Church, in Tampa, Florida.  The Lord God has something great and wonderful for all of us today. Psalm 105:4 tells us: “Look to the LORD and his strength; seek his face always.

I was out the door before the sun was up to get to the breakfast briefing held by the Renewal-Reformation Coalition at the Hyatt Recency Hotel. Walked into the Ball Room to see three hundred people eating breakfast. Tom Lambrecht, Vice President of Good News led the briefing.

The top five stories he shared included : 1. The Council of Bishops has nominated Dr. Jerry Campbell, President of the Claremont School of Theology to be on the University Senate. Not good, in that Dr Campbell is dedicated to training clerics of other faiths including Islam Buddhism, Hinduism, Judaism as well as Christianity; 2. Term limits for Bishops will not be recommended; 3. It is recommended that gay and lesbian people not be permitted to work with United Meth Scouting ministries; 4. It’s going to be recommended next week for the full GC plenary that other women’s ministries besides United Methodist Women be allowed in local annual conferences; and 5. Claremont School of Theology will not be disciplined for seeking to train other clerics besides Christian.

The real importance of tracking legislation begins next week. Now that I know where to go for the briefings I will keep you up to date.

Went back to the convention center to pick up briefing papers from GC and found this attractive group of people promoting who and what they are for. The sign says that during the GC stay in Tampa there will be 1,150,000 abortions performed in this country. O God have mercy upon this nation!

During the various breaks between legislative committees, plenary sessions, and meal times there are various singing groups that are featured for our entertainment and spiritual inspiration. I came upon this group after having seen this anti abortion pro life group.

How encouraging it is to see young people here at GC standing up for biblical values. May it be our prayer that The Holy Spirit would so work in these young lives that these young people will return to General Conferences in the years ahead  as adults.

So what do we say or sing to the Lord today? How about- “Spirit of the Living God, fall afresh on us. Spirit of the Living God fall afresh on us. Melt us, mold us, fill us, use us. Spirit of the Living God, fall afresh on us.”

Stay tuned.  I’m off to the Tampa Museum of Natural History !  Brother John

The Power of Illusion or Reality In The UMC!

This last week approaching the convention center one gave me a newspaper named ALERT. Underneath these large bold letters the words: An Appeal to General Conference Delegates by the Mainstream United Methodists. I looked at it while walking and thought to myself: “O wow a new kid on the block.” My soul smiled because of what I assumed or what appeared to be.

Today in doing my daily prep looking through all kinds of materials I took the time to really look through this rag. Ouch. What I assumed to be the case was not true.

No one person or group owns sole usage of the words or image of John Wesley in the UMC. This is what is so frustrating in life. People can use the exact same words, and timely phrases, but have far different meanings behind the same words. This is the difference between illusion and reality. What’s a growing threat to American manufacturers today? Counterfeits. Just ask the FBI.

With all due respect to these brothers and sisters in Christ, as I read their newspaper their politics spoke louder than their love for Jesus Christ.  One way to ascertain people’s use of religious words in the UMC is to notice how often they talk about or actually use the name of Jesus Christ. Now I don’t  mean a believer  has to always refer to Christ’s holy name. No way. If you talk enough with people of  Wesleyan faith what you will notice is that they do give you a sense of thankfulness for the transformation Christ has caused in their lives. Those who rarely refer to Christ are not apostolic believers and those who do refer to Christ and the Holy Spirit are. No one is any more sacred to God or holier than another. It’s just about noticing differences and that it’s illusion to believe that everyone is at the same place in their spiritual awareness of Christ and biblical spiritual maturity.

Mayonnaise may look like horse radish. It may spread like horse radish, and even have the color and texture of horse radish. But spiritually speaking horseradish isn’t mayonnaise. Be careful that you don’t get spiritually burned or deceived. Paul dealt quite a bit with spiritual counterfeits and gives valuable instruction you and I should be aware of in I Timothy 1:3-11.

Those who know me know that one of my favorite verses from the Master simply is: “I am sending you out like sheep among wolves. Therefore be as shrewd as snakes and as harmless as doves (Matthew 10:16).” Check out on the web http://www.spiritual counterfeits-you will be amazed.

The Alert newspaper brothers and sisters are banking on what I believe is the hope that most United Methodists will go along with their appearance of biblical authority. Some may be fooled but God is not fooled.

Know the difference between illusion and reality within the competing spiritualities within The United Methodist Church. Stay tuned!

Chill Out John!

Everyone’s still prepping legislation. Too much seriousness.  I need as younger generations say to “just chill.” Chilling is what I’ve been doing in the convention hall with their deep freeze air conditioners. Now some of the delegates from Africa are wearing heavy coats-ha! Welcome to the inside Florida. Today it’s ninety outside. Here I am on the Gulf Coast and Maureen my love partner is at the mouth of the Columbia River and the pacific ocean at our soon to be retirement home in Ilwaco, where it’s fifty two. Interesting.                                                                               (sweater, long shirt for chills)

Decided to do something different for lunch today. Just took off in the Keetch’s Ford van and found soup and salad at an Olive Garden. In the process I drove right past a major Tampa attraction called Busch Gardens. Hey Harry Schafer-from Ritzville. You told me to check out Busch Gardens and its mammoth. It’s a competitor to Disney World.  Rides, roller coasters, and all it’s probably missing is Mickey and Minnie Mouse. It’s only $75 for one adult admission ticket. No thanks.

After soup and salad I got on my I- phone and scoped out various local attractions. This is probably my last time to this orange juice culture.  What  is really appealling is a butterfly rainforest type museum on the campus of The University of Florida. Slight problem -Gainesville is two and a half hours from Tampa. Ouch. So I’ve decided tomorrow after the briefing breakfast  with the Good News and Reformation Coalition to go to the Tampa Museum of Natural History. Photos here are all mine.

Tonight at worship is a special service of “Repentance”.  So chill out-no matter how cold or warm you are! O wonderful loving Savior-how beautiful you are. As the UMC hymn goes: “Something beautiful, something good; all my confusion, He understood; all I had to offer him was brokenness and strife, but he made something beautiful of my life ( No. 394 UMC Hymnal).”

Stay tuned!

What Is It? Chained Within or Without? Christ Knows!

The delegates are still in legislative committees deciding on petitions to bring before the plenary starting Monday April 30th. Welcome to Lift up Christ-the fourth day in the 2012 GC.

Last Wednesday all were met by this symbolic image. A cross, church building, UMC logo, chains, and two rectangle messages. The right reads: “I wish the church was as inclusive as the military.” I so apologize but I can’t make out the left rectangle.

Are we as individuals chained from within or without?  This symbol suggests that the problem with The UMC is that we have the doors chained on the outside to gay people. Here is another illustration of the battle over the authority/interpre-tation of Holy Scriptures. So what is it biblically? Are we chained from within or without?

Wesleyan interpretation of Jesus Christ would contend that the problem is both within and without.  Wesleyan theology contends that we all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. Jesus’ first words after his forty days in the desert were: “Repent for the Kingdom of heaven is near.” At the root of all outward problems is a fallen inner nature choosing self worship instead of worshipping the Creator (Romans 1:21-23).

Sin is sin. No sin is any more a no-no than any other. Jesus Christ identified the root of humanity’s problem. In response to the Pharisees complaining that he and his disciples didn’t first wash their hands before eating grain Jesus speaks with profound authority in Mark 7:21-23: “For from within, out of men’s hearts, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, greed, malice, deceit, lewdness, envy, slander, arrogance and folly. All these evils come from inside and make a man unclean.” We all are chained first inside by our sin. Anyone who rejects the concept of sin is fooling himself or herself for “if we claim we have not sinned, we make Him out to be a liar and his word has no place in our lives (I John 1:8).”

Unfortunately in today’s fallen world we see all kinds of discrimination. Discrimination is an outward sign of what’s wrong within people’s hearts-souls. No so with the United Methodist Church. No inward thoughts resulting in outward discrimination are tolerated within The United Methodist Church.  At issue here with this plywood church symbol is not an issue about people being discriminated against. It’s a major difference we have about Holy Scripture. Those who respectfully disagree with this plywood symbol (of which I am one) contend that all sin is unacceptable to The United Methodist Church.  So are we chained from within or without? It’s both.  Christ knows the answer here!  Ask him!