Category Archives: theology

through the glass dimly …

church oneIt’s been a tough ten days for United Methodists across the globe. What … you haven’t heard? You mean you haven’t been glued to the live-streaming drama taking place out in Portland, Oregon, known as General Conference? Who needs Jerry Springer when you can watch a bunch of Methodists vocally duking it out over the issue of human sexuality … again.

In case you’re not familiar with Methodism and its way of governing our global church body, here’s the short version:  Every four years representatives gather to hash out perspectives and proposals pertaining to our Book of Discipline (aka “rules” for living/doing life as a Methodist). There is merit to the gathering, if for nothing more than to communally gather as one to worship God, the ultimate tie that binds us.

But we are not “one” as Methodists. We are split, especially on the issue of human sexuality. Current language in the Discipline states, “The United Methodist Church does not condone the practice of homosexuality and considers this practice incompatible with Christian teaching.” (You can read the full statement here).

And while many other issues are dealt with at the General Conference level, it is this one issue that takes center stage every time (at least during my lifetime). So here we are, a church divided on the issue; there are passionate, well-spoken and well-meaning folks on both sides of this debate. Many of them I call my friends. But this issue is dividing us as a church, not uniting us. And as it stands now, my heart tells me a split of some sort is on the horizon. All proposals/discussions on this particular issue were tabled this go around. The 864 delegates who arrived in Portland from around the globe to have passionate discourse on this important issue weren’t allowed much of a forum in which to do so. Instead (through a series of very convoluted events that I can’t wrap my head around), the delegates voted to allow the bishops to form a committee to do further research on how this might all look for us going forward. It was a narrow victory – 23 votes.

Who wins? Hard to say. All I can say is that I feel terribly sad and defeated today. I thought this would be the year (and the time) when Methodists would finally have some closure on this issue, one way or the other. At least then, I could more easily make my decision about whether or not I wanted to remain denominationally connected to the United Methodist Church. I have a lot of skin-in-the-game. It’s not easy for me to walk away. I’ve been a Methodist all of my life; my husband is a Methodist pastor, my daddy as well. I grew up running the hallways of Asbury Theological Seminary, soul-shaped by the sacred echoes of John Wesley and Francis Asbury. My theological roots are tightly tethered therein.

So today I’m wondering how we got to where we are and, really, how much longer I can hold on. I’m tired of the fighting and the harsh words between the two camps. Even more so, I’m tired of the feelings I’m feeling – the anger, the disappointment, the trying-to-make-sense-of-it-all. My attempts at loving my brothers and sisters on the other side of the fence often fail and that, alone, feels terrible. I want to love well. I want to honor God with all my heart, soul, and might, but I’m not sure I know how to do that in the Methodist church anymore.

I stand in agreement with the current language in our Discipline, and I am disliked because of it … by those in the world and even, by some who call themselves my brothers and sisters in Christ. But hatred and harsh words aren’t enough to make me jump the fence to the other side for the sake of peace; instead, it leads me toward isolation – to the safety net of home where I am loved and where nobody is pressuring me to re-think and re-shape my convictions.

But I will not retreat to silence, because that’s not what God is after in me. He has called me to be a living witness to the transformational work of the Holy Spirit in my life. I am not the woman I used to be; God’s love and his holy correction have changed me. I’ve been born again, not in the flesh but, higher still, in the Spirit. He has given me a sound mind, a loving heart, and every now and again, a little strength to get some kingdom work accomplished. Whether I will continue to do so as a Methodist remains unseen. I am tethered, only, temporarily to my denomination. Thanks be to God, however, I am tethered, always, eternally to him.

He is where I will run. He is where I will stay. Thanks be to God, He is where I will end. In the meantime, (and in the words of John Wesley)

“Lord, let me not live to be useless.”

Even so, loosen me from my Methodism, Lord, to use me for your kingdom. Amen. So be it.

Peace for the journey,

*Comments on this post are closed.

You might also like...

Come What May

9873973_s

He autographs my copy of his book, along with a postscript – 1 Cor. 1:9.

I visited this biblical address in my morning deliberations with God.

“God, who has called you into fellowship with his Son Jesus Christ our Lord, is faithful.”

Word by word, I let this one simmer in my soul.

God. Calling me. Into fellowship. With Jesus. My Lord. Is. Faithful.

I notice the bookends – God and faithful. Could it be any other way? Sometimes I think it might be, but my thinking (especially when emotions are involved) doesn’t always accurately portray truth. No, it cannot be any other way. God and faithfulness go hand in hand. There is not one without the other. God cannot be unfaithful, and faithfulness is defined by God. Faithful is who he is; faithful is what he does. Knowing this … believing this, I can live my life confidently, in peace, and with the full assurance that God will see me through to the finish line, come what may.

Why, then, do I sometimes crumble with the come what may?

Come what may. What came into my life last weekend was a phone call, preceded by a car accident involving my eldest son. And while he’s OK and his car is on the road to being repaired, I’ve yet to fully recover. Seeing his Scion crashed into an embankment, along with a “stop sign” buried in the sandy soil beneath the carriage of his car, has left a lasting impression on my mind. Hearing his cries for help on the other end of the phone has left a lasting impression on my soul.

It matters not the come what may, especially ones of the crumbling kind. They leave lasting imprints.

  • Sickness.
  • Death.
  • Divorce.
  • Abuse.
  • Crime.
  • Unemployment.
  • Under-employment.
  • Financial strain.
  • Learning difficulties.
  • Relational woes.
  • Dreams deferred.
  • Dreams forgotten.
  • ______________.

My recent come what may came and went; still and yet, it lingers in me. Tearing up my peace. Messing with the truth. My what ifs have temporarily dislodged the what is. What is?

God is faithful. Regardless of my come what may, God is faithful. I should rest securely in between.

I hate that I forget this, that I often don’t live this. It’s so concrete, so foundational to the faith that I profess to believe. When adversity howls down my pathway, I’m often paralyzed by the blinding darkness that surrounds me. The enemy would have it this way.

Come what mays grow larger in the dark. Come what mays thrive in the shadows. Come what mays come and stay when entertained in the cover of night.

It’s only with the light and witness of God’s presence that I am able to dispel the darkness and make the next step of faith. When I can see truth (even just a little bit), I’m able to move through the reality of my come what may and make progress toward something better. That better?

My Father’s come what may.

His faithfulness. Time and again, God showing up on the scene of my life and making certain that he can be seen. Touched. Tasted. Heard. Felt. I’ve never encountered a come what may that he wasn’t there in the midst of the chaos. My mess is his mess too. And when I embrace his light, when I take hold of the sacred lantern and lift it up against my fledgling faith, my come what may shudders and begins to break apart beneath the weight of holy illumination.

Come what may, God’s faithfulness does not change. It can be ignored, but it cannot be altered. His faithfulness stands, even in the midst of our crumbling messes … especially then.

“God, who has called you into fellowship with his Son Jesus Christ our Lord, is faithful.”

Let this promise simmer in your souls, friends. Let this truth settle deeply within your spirit.

Come what may, our Father has the final say. He is faithful. He will keep us through the night and, with the morning light, bring word of his unfailing love. This is enough light, the right light to move me forward. I know this is truth.

God help me to live it, even as I boldly proclaim it … come what may.

Image credit: efired / 123RF Stock Photo

You might also like...

God’s will done on earth . . .

2596220_s

Consider heaven.

Take a moment or two or ten and consider the heavenly kingdom that exists just beyond the veil. What thoughts come to mind? What do you believe to be true about your Father’s house and the rooms he has prepared in advance of your arrival?

As I’ve taken time to petition God with the most potent, practical prayer I can offer on behalf of my sons (and others)—Thy will be done on earth as it is done in heaven”—a few thoughts surface regarding what I might actually be praying for them. What is God’s will in heaven? How does it live, breathe, and function? When we ask God for a similar measure to fall into our lives on planet earth, what might that look like?

I’m not an expert on heaven, but I do know God. His Word is alive and active in me. So as I consider heaven and God’s will therein, I’m confident that when I pray the prayer our Father taught us to pray in Matt. 6:9-13, I’m asking for a few specific things.

1. Revealed truth. Untainted. Pure. Without compromise. Absolute understanding. When you and I make it to the shores of our heavenly home, our eyes will be opened fully to truth. We’ll recognize truth, hold truth, walk in and with truth without any temporal constraints to blur our focus (see John 14:6-7). Certainly, we carry a measure of truth in our hearts as we travel this earthen sod, but imagine carrying it without hindrance.

When we pray the most potent, practical prayer on behalf of others, we’re praying for truth to be revealed exponentially to them on earth, even as it is revealed in heaven.

2. An accurate perception of God. Oh to see him face-to-face! To know God for who he is and to perfectly understand who we are in relation to who he is. That we, like our spiritual ancestors, might catch a glimpse of the Father in his radiant splendor and fall to our knees in humble response (see Rev. 1:17). That the mirrors which cradle our egos might shatter to the floor and, instead, we courageously allow ourselves to look in God’s eyes and see our true reflections set against the backdrop of his heart.

When we pray the most potent, practical prayer on behalf of others, we’re praying for glimpses of God in all of his glory to be made manifest in their lives. That they would perceive him accurately and respond accordingly.

3. Fellowship. People from every tribe, tongue, and nation will share the boundaries of heaven (see Rev. 5:9). Color won’t divide us. Language won’t confuse us. Geographical borders won’t separate us. Instead, our color, language, and geographical intricacies will enrich the heavenly banqueting table with enough flavors to last an eternal lifetime . . . to last forever.

When we pray the most potent, practical prayer on behalf of others, we’re praying for earthly fellowship that mirrors heaven’s family reunion. Oh to live that now and not allow our geography to segregate us but rather to enliven us and prepare us for the camaraderie of forever.

4. Worship. When did we stop? Why did we stop? Could it be that we’ve never really understood what worship means? For starters, reread #1 and #2. When we take hold of God’s truth and begin to understand who we are in relation to who God IS, then worship isn’t something we do on Sunday mornings; worship is how we live every moment of our lives. We pay our respects to the King. We make pilgrimage to the manger and lay our gifts at his feet. We journey further to the cross and share the grace meal with the grace-Giver. We travel on to the tomb and fill our famished hearts with its vacancy. We move finally and fully to the garden and realize that God is still with us, still in our midst. That he has chosen and continues to make his home with us through the power of the Holy Spirit and that one day soon, we’ll echo the resurrection cry of Easter, “Rabboni! … I have seen the Lord!” (see John 20:16-18).

When we pray the most potent, practical prayer on behalf of others, we’re asking for their hearts to be free from worldly constraints so that they might be able to live each moment of their lives reverently, acknowledging God and giving him his due. He’s due everything. We owe him everything. Get this, and you’ll get worship.

Revealed truth. An accurate perception of God. Fellowship. Worship. Four overflows from the most potent, practical prayer we can offer on behalf of others, Thy will be done on earth as it is done in heaven.” Certainly, not the fullness of this prayer; I’ve a feeling I’ve only scratched its surface. But it’s a start, a good way to begin this very good day. On my knees and in prayer for those I love.

Would you take a moment today to consider heaven and, then, out of that consideration pray the most potent, practical prayer on behalf of someone you love? What does Thy will be done on earth as it is done in heaven” mean for you … for them? There is no more pressing, worthy consideration of your heart. When you take the time to consider heaven in all its fullness (and especially on behalf of others), you open your heart and theirs to forever.

And so I pray on behalf of you, friends . . .

God’s will be done in your lives today even as it is done in heaven. As always . . .

Peace for the journey,

To learn more about our Summer Book Special, click here.

 Image credit: yellowj / 123RF Stock Photo

You might also like...

five steps to harvesting a good theology…

It’s been one of those mornings in Bible study—a time of reflection that promotes more questions than answers. A day when I (again) wrote these words in the margin of my current Bible study guide, “Do I really believe this?” Whenever this happens, my contemplation takes a turn, sometimes toward clarity, sometimes toward confusion. On this particular morning, there’s confusion—a long wrestling of thought, Word, and practical living that doesn’t compute fully with the author’s considerations. Accordingly, I won’t “go there,” at least not with you, friends. Instead, I’ll take my questions to God and continue to flesh out my beliefs with him, with his Word, and with an open heart. Sometimes it’s just better to let our questions simmer before him rather than fanning them into flame before mankind. Why?

Well, sometimes we’re not as forgiving as God is. In fact, never are we as forgiving as God is. He’s more open-minded with our earnest probing and deliberate searches for answers. We, on the other hand, are more comfortable with ours judgments, making assumptions, drawing conclusions, and rendering a verdict when someone bravely risks doing the heart work attached to his/her faith and doing so out loud. And so today, I tuck away my questions, and I focus on a scripture that has surfaced for me from this same study and from God’s Word that doesn’t warrant my question mark but only my highlighter and my “Amen.” Hear now from God’s Word:

“So Ruth gleaned in the field until evening. Then she threshed the barley she had gathered, and it amounted to about an ephah. She carried it back to town, and her mother-in-law saw how much she had gathered. Ruth also brought out and gave her what she had left over after she had eaten enough” (Ruth 2:17-18).

So what in the wide world of faith and function do these verses have in common with the questions stirring in my spirit this morning?

Everything, because in these two verses, God gives me . . . gives you a “how-to” for dealing with the hard wrestlings that sometime surface for us as we move forward in our faith and understanding. Ruth . . .

  • gleaned the harvest;
  • threshed the harvest;
  • carried the harvest;
  • ate the harvest;
  • shared the harvest

Good theology, good understanding begins in the wheat fields, where bread has already been planted by the Sower, watered by the Sower, and grown by the Sower. Truth cannot be created. Truth already is; accordingly, our souls’ understanding cannot, should not be built from scratch. We must start with good seed planted in rich soil—a harvest ready for gleaning. Good understanding begins with God and his Word. Get there first, and you’re in a good place of education and eternal growth. Glean truth from what’s already been grown; you won’t come up empty-handed. God’s already handed you his abundance.

Secondly, good understanding grows during the threshing process—a time when the wheat is spread out so that the edible grain can be loosened from the inedible chaff. A time of cutting through the chaff to get to the palatable. “Without the grain’s release from its hardened casing, the ripened seeds are reduced in their usefulness” (Peace for the Journey, 2010, pg. 113). Good understanding doesn’t come home to roost in our hearts unless there’s been a hearty threshing applied along the way. It’s not always easy to relinquish the harvest to the pounding; rarely is it comfortable, but if we’re after God’s truth—if we really want to know that we know that we know deep down in the marrow of our souls—then we must surrender our questions and our confusion to the winnowing process.

Notice Ruth’s next obedience. She carried the harvest back to town. When questions surface in our hearts regarding our faith and our theology, not only must we glean and thresh the harvest, but also we must carry the harvest with us . . . for a season. Let the work that’s being done in you, linger with you for awhile. Don’t short step this process or make false assumptions about your knowledge. Good understanding must be mulled over, contemplated, and developed over time. The saints of old spent a lifetime cultivating godly understanding. They didn’t have all the answers on the front side of their faith; the answers arrived for them along the way and as they went, one step at a time. You don’t have all the answers regarding God and his Word. Thinking that you do is a good indicator that there’s more work to be done.

Next, Ruth ate the harvest. After gleaning it, threshing it, and carrying it, the harvest was finally ready for consumption. I don’t know much about the digestion process, but I do know that once something goes in my mouth, it goes down . . . deep down and becomes (in essence) part of my inward being. Are you hearing what I’m saying (rather what I’m typing—rather quickly and furiously I might add, not furiously bad, but furiously good)? Before anything, any truth, any knowledge becomes part of our inward beings, let’s be sure we give it thorough consideration before we consume it. To blindly eat the harvest in front of us is to open up our souls to disaster, to waste, to fraudulent food that does more harm than good.

Finally, Ruth shared the harvest. After she had eaten her fill, she generously shared the harvest with Naomi. Initially, we might think Ruth would have first given the harvest to her mother-in-law; after all, Ruth’s generosity is clearly on display at every turn. But I want to lead you along for a moment with a thought that just occurred to me. Just as the ancient custom of the king’s cupbearer tasting the wine before passing it on to his master, could it be the same principle at work here—Ruth eating her fill, making sure it was good for consumption before passing it along to Naomi? Could it be the same for us in regards to spiritual understanding? That after we’ve gleaned, threshed, carried, and eaten the harvest, we might finally come to some realizations about God’s truth in regards to our wrestlings and questions? In other words, if it goes down smoothly for us, if the harvest is good for us, then, perhaps it might be good for others, might be ready for the sharing? Sometimes, eating the harvest is the only way to know if it’s safe for public consumption. Better to pass truth along after it’s been tested.

And so today, on a day when I wrestle through some questions, I’ll do so with Ruth’s example in mind. I’ll glean from God’s fields, thresh the wheat, carry the edible around with me for awhile, eat it while monitoring my digestion, and then, maybe I’ll share it with you. Maybe I won’t. It’s too early to tell.

Oh that we all might take Ruth’s lead and step back from the mirror long enough to submit our thoughts, questions, and theology to the harvesting process so that we might arrive at the place of fully believing in the faith that we are so willing to boldly profess!

For what it’s worth, it’s what I’m thinking about today. What are you thinking about? As always . . .

Peace for the journey,

You might also like...

holding expectation…

Holding verses . . . you know the kind. The scriptures that hold you, keep you, warm you, and sustain you in your darkest hours. Where would we be . . . where would I be without the wrapping of God’s Word around my heart? Here are a few of the holding verses that cradled me during those dark hours named cancer.

 

“Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. Resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same kinds of suffering are being experienced by your brotherhood throughout the world. And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you. To him be dominion forever and ever. Amen.” –1 Peter 5:8-11

 

There’s a lot of truth crammed into these four verses; the apostle Peter knew how to make every word count. He knew that the saints back then (those early Christians) would need some holding verses. I wonder if he also knew that we (current day Christians) would need them as well. Oh, the certain timelessness and gracefulness of the inspired Word of God! Indeed, holding words that keep us tethered to eternity.

 

So what did I learn from these four verses during my time of great suffering? What is still being learned? What truths from Peter’s yesterday can we expect to see in our todays?

  • Expect an adversary—the devil. He’s hungry, he’s prowling, and he has you in his sights.
  • Expect your faith. The life you live with God, the faith investments you’ve made into your spiritual bank account, have fortified your heart and your feet for a strong stand against your adversary.
  • Expect companions. You are not the first, nor will you be the last to experience your particular suffering. Brothers and sisters across the planet are struggling too.
  • Expect suffering (refer to first bullet point). Don’t blame God. Put the blame where it belongs.
  • Expect God.
  • Expect grace.
  • Expect an eternal glory in Christ Jesus.
  • Expect God’s willingness and ability.
  • Expect God’s restoration.
  • Expect God’s confirmation.
  • Expect God’s strength.
  • Expect God’s stability.
  • Expect God’s forever . . . and ever.
  • Expect an “amen” from God. A “so be it.” A finish.

 

Suffering days don’t have the final word on our faith and regarding our finishes. God does. And we can expect him . . . beautifully and certainly expect him to superintend our hearts all the way through to the end. He is and forever will be the holding Truth of my heart. I pray he’s yours as well.

 

Be watchful for the movement of God in your lives this weekend, friends. Expect it, even when your adversary seems very close at hand. Especially then, because your Advocate is even closer. I promise. As always . . .

 

Peace for the journey,
     post signature

 

PS: There’s still time to enter the give-away. See this post for details!

 

You might also like...