Posts Tagged With: God

Should United Methodist Pastor’s Perform Homosexual Marriages?

In light of recent events and discussions regarding marriages of homosexual persons performed by United Methodist Ordained Clergy, I have been asked regarding my position on this subject.  So, in this blog I will make an attempt to state my position with grace and steadfastness to my personal faith.

Is homosexuality a sin? 

It is my belief that homosexuality is incompatible with Christian teachings.  Yes, I believe it is sinful.  However, I believe that all humanity is broken and we are all guilty of sin in whatever forms it presents itself.

Should United Methodist Ordained Clergy officiate homosexual weddings? 


Every United Methodist Clergy took a vow at their ordination and said yes to the following question:  “Will you be loyal to The United Methodist Church, accepting its order, liturgy, doctrine and discipline, defending it against all doctrines contrary to God’s Holy Word, and committing yourself to be accountable with those serving with you, and to the bishop and those who are appointed to supervise your ministry?”  To which every ordained clergy answered, “I will, with the help of God.”  So, each clergy has vowed to “accept our doctrine and discipline.”   This doesn’t mean we have to agree with it nor is it a requirement that we have to like everything in the doctrine and discipline…however, we have vowed to accept it and defend it.

The 2012 United Methodist Discipline states: “¶ 341.6
Ceremonies that celebrate homosexual unions shall not be conducted by our ministers and shall not be conducted in our churches.”

This is the rule of the United Methodist Church and if a clergy or a bishop officiates a wedding, they have broken their vow.  What does the willful and intentional breaking of one’s vow taken before God in a worship service say about said clergy’s honor?  We also don’t have the privilege of a “Line Item Veto” where the clergy can pick and choose what parts of the Discipline they will uphold and live by.  We vow to uphold and live by all the “doctrines and disciplines” of the church.  If a person cannot do that, then they should pursue another avenue to live out their calling. 

Each year as a member of the Board of Ordained Ministry, I ask the question of Candidates for the Ordination of Elder, “Will you itinerate?”  Like it or not being itinerate is part of our church.  If the candidate refuses to be itinerate, he or she should not be a United Methodist Ordained Elder.  I believe the same is true as to someone who is so opposed to the UM stance on conducting homosexual marriages and are willing to violate the Discipline and their Ordination vow.  It’s simple, this is the rule of law within the church, you’re taking a vow to uphold and abide by that rule and if you are going to refuse to minister by that rule…DON’T TAKE THE VOW!

It all comes down to a choice for the clergy and clergy candidates

–       Can I take a vow to “accept and defend” something I may not like or am opposed?

–       Will the rule of the United Methodist Church keep me from ministering in a way I feel called?

–       Will I break or maintain a vow that I have taken before God?

If you disagree with church doctrine, there are other options rather than violating a vow and just breaking the rules.  One can move to change the doctrine using the appropriate channels and means that have been laid out.  You can change to a denomination that better fits your theology and beliefs or one can always turn in credentials.

Categories: Church, John's Rant (opinion) | Tags: , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Top 10 Most Important Things in My Life


Right now, I’m reading the “Two Minute Drill to Manhood” by John Croyle.  It is his game plan for raising sons and specifically focuses on the last two minutes (when they are 15-18 years old) of time when we as parents have to prepare them for manhood.  The first chapter is on “Who is the Master of your life?” At the end of the chapter, one of the “Things to do” is to write down the 10 things that you think are most important in your life and from that list determine what you need to and can change.

I’m not sure I was ready for the difficulty of this assignment but here goes in no particular order:

  • God:  The foundation upon which I want my life to be based.  I believe that if this is not right, all the other things in life will not be complete.
  • Jill:  The most blessed gift I have ever received from God.  I cannot imagine life without her and it boggles my mind how each day I love her even more than I did the day before.
  • Ministry:  My job.  I love what I do and find such fulfillment in doing what God has called me to do.  This is something that I have to be careful with and watch.  It can quickly consume me and take away from my top two priorities (God and Family).
  • My Children:  I have been the most blessed man with my children.
  • Sophie’s kisses; Graden’s Laugh; Noah’s hugs; Jackson’s adventurous nature; Erica’s trust.
  • Food:  I love food and it shows.  I like the social aspect of eating, I like the flavor explosion, I love cooking, and trying new things.  However, this is one of the things that I need to change.  I want to be healthy for my family.  I want to experience as much of them and their life as I can and if I don’t begin to change the importance food holds in my life then I might not be able.
  • Relax Time:  My time to recharge.  I tend to live life at two speeds…full speed or complete stop.  I would love to be able to find some middle speed but I’ve never been able to.  I find it very hard to sit around and do nothing.  I’m working on it and finding more time to just sit, to read, to listen to the fountain, and watch the birds at the feeder.
  • Providing for my Family:  It is incredibly important for me to be able to provide for my family.  To be able to give them the things in life they need but also some of the things in life they desire.  I want to provide them with a foundation of stability, of love, of  safety, of faith, and of education.
  • Quality Time with my Family:  I love spending time with the family as we camp, seek out new adventures, watching them play in the sandbox, going for a walk and holding Jill’s hand.  There is nothing like seeing the faces on the kids as they discover something new.
  • My Mom:  All the lessons taught, sacrifices made, and love given.  I’ll never be able to say thank you enough for being my mom.  I love you.
Categories: John Personal | Tags: , , , , , | Leave a comment

30 Things I Want to Teach My Daughters

120611091018-father-daughter-share-dance-story-topAs the Father of two daughters, I have been giving a great deal of thought to what advice I’d like to give them about life, career, dating, and their education.  Here are  15 words of wisdom from your Dad.  I’m sure there will be more to follow…

  1. You are beautiful inside and out.
  2. Realize your self-worth before committing yourself to someone.
  3. Don’t reveal too much of yourself.  Closely guard your secrets, dreams, ideas, affections and your body.  There will be a day you want to share all of that with the person you marry.  Don’t share it with the world.  Remember, you’re special!
  4. You are a child of God and God loves you.
  5. Don’t date or marry someone who does not hold your values, morals and beliefs.
  6. If your date does not open the car door…stand there and don’t get in the car!
  7. Respect yourself and expect those you date to have respect for you also.  If they don’t have that respect, they don’t deserve to be out with you.
  8. You will not be able to change him.  Don’t date someone with the idea that you will be able to change the things in him you don’t like.  It does not happen that way.
  9. Don’t get serious with a guy who would rather play a video game or hang out with a bunch of guys than spend time with you.
  10. Get your education and as much education as possible.  Education provides choices in life and you want to have as many choices as you can.  Education provides these choices.
  11. Be able to financially, emotionally and professionally support yourself fully before getting married.  Having someone support you financially is not a reason to get married.
  12. Have goals and dreams.  Write them down and look at them often.  Create a roadmap to achieve these goals and dreams.
  13. Have Values and Morals.  Write them down and make them nonnegotiable.  What is that you believe and stand for?  This will make your decision-making easier and prevent a great deal of heartache.
  14. You can’t feel good about yourself while living in sin.
  15. Keep a journal of your life, prayers, answered prayers, struggles, and successes.
  16. Don’t hesitate to walk away from someone/something that goes against who you are and the values and morals you hold.
  17. Be able to change your own tire.
  18. Know how to jump off a battery.
  19. Get involved in a church.  Not just going on Sunday morning but giving of your time, efforts and finances.
  20. The sweetest sound to a person is the sound of their own name.  Learn and remember names.
  21. Learn how to budget and live within your means.
  22. Credit Cards are of Satan (stay away from them!!)
  23. Don’t put all your personal stuff on Facebook.  Remember, what goes online stays online FOREVER!
  24. The person you will be in 5 years will be greatly determined by the books you read, the TV/Movies you watch and most importantly the friends you hang out with.
  25. 10% of life is made up of what happens to you and the other 90% is how you respond to what happens to you.
  26. Change happens and is necessary for growth.
  27. Failure is not when you get knocked down but when you refuse to get back up.
  28. Attitude isn’t everything, but it is the one thing that can make a difference in your life.
  29. Give today your attention–not yesterday or tomorrow.
  30. You will always be Daddies Little Girl.  Forgive me when I constantly remind you of things you already know, ask you to call when you get where you are going and when you’re on your way home, and the belief that I hold that there is no male who is good enough for you.
Categories: Family, John Personal, John's Rant (opinion), Lessons I've Learned as a Dad, Letter to Sophie | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment

The Sacrament of Holy Communion


This week at Flint Hill UMC we will be celebrating the sacrament of Holy Communion and I wanted to share what we as United Methodist believe regarding this Holy Sacrament.

The sacraments of Baptism and Holy Communion are crucial means of grace, or vehicles, that God uses to reach humanity.  They are channels by which the grace and love of God flows, and it is through them that we can receive prevenient, justifying, and sanctifying grace.  They are outward and visible signs of an inward, invisible grace.

The sacrament of Holy Communion confirms the justification of our sins through the action of Christ.  It also refreshes and strengthens our souls as Wesley described in “The Duty of Constant Communion.”  The Christian life is not an easy journey, and there are temptations and stumbling blocks along the way.  As with our physical life, which requires proper nutritional sustenance in order to grow, our spiritual life also requires sustenance, which is found in the bread and wine of Holy Communion.  We obtain our strength from this sacrament, and it is the “food of our soul.”  Holy Communion is a remembrance, a commemoration, and a memorial, but it is more than just a simple intellectual recalling.  It is a representation of past gracious acts of God in an action that makes them present today.  Jesus Christ is risen from the grave and alive in the here and now.

Several summers ago, my wife and I directed a Senior High Camp at Sumatanga.  One night during the week, Holy Communion was included in the worship service, and I witnessed the power and significance of the sacrament in a wonderful way. A young man, who was a junior in high school,  had become a very popular youth in the camp and was a guy whom everyone just seemed to like and looked up to.  During the Communion portion of the service, everyone was invited to stay at the altar and pray as long as needed.  I noticed that young man was staying for an extended time, and then I noticed his shoulders quivering from crying.  I went over and asked him if I could pray with him, and he just grabbed hold of my hands.  Without my saying a word, he started telling me that he was not worthy of what Christ had done for him and that he was not living the life that God was calling him to live.  Through tears we prayed together.  He asked God for forgiveness and the strength to live the life that God had called him to live.  Through the sacrament of Communion, God reached out to Frank (Not his real name) and confirmed the justification of sin through Christ and conveyed a grace that went straight to the heart of this young man.

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Wash and Be Clean


This week during worship we will be taking a look at Naaman and his meeting with Elisha.  Naaman was a great military commander and was very well-respected.  He had one strike against him though…he had leprosy.  One of his slave servants told his wife about the prophet Elisha and how if there was any one who could heal Naaman, it would be Elisha.  So, Naaman set out in search of Elisha but he made four mistakes along the way and these mistakes will be the focus of our time together on Sunday.

In the end, Naaman was washed clean of his disease by the power of God.  It always amazes me how God is completely contradictory to the world we live in.  Naaman almost missed out on his opportunity to be cleansed because of his pride and perhaps because he expected a different solution to his situation.  Don’t we often do that?  Have you ever asked God for something and even suggested how He should answer your prayer only to have God answer it in a completely different way?  I know I have.  But what I have found is that God’s answer always is better than the one I suggested.

Sunday is going to be a special service with some awesome features.  I hope you will make plans to join us at 10:45 at Flint Hill.

Categories: Faith Journey, Flint Hill UMC | Tags: , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Levites: Serving God


S:  Deuteronomy 10:8-9  “At that time the LORD set apart the tribe of Levi to carry the ark of the LORD’s covenant, to stand before Yahweh to serve Him and to pronounce blessings in His name, as it is today.  For this reason, Levi does not have a portion or inheritance like his brothers; the LORD is his inheritance, as the LORD your God told him.

Observation:  The tribe of Levi has been called by God for special duty of service.  The work will be hard and there will be no earthly inheritance.  They won’t get rich by doing this but instead of an earthly inheritance, God will be their inheritance.

Application:  The work of a Christian is very difficult and leads to a cross.  Contrary to what some popular televangelist say, it isn’t a earthy prosperity Gospel.  Our inheritance is in Christ and the spiritual blessings found in our faith in God through Jesus Christ.  We are called to be servants, not the served. The workers in the field, not the masters in the house.

Prayer:  Great God, in the world I live in it’s extremely difficult to be the servant.  It goes against everything taught, yet that is what you have called me to be. A servant of you.  Not expecting a reward or inheritance to be found in this life but a promise of eternal life with you.  Give me the strength and courage to be your servant. Amen


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When You Can’t Take Another Step

A friend of mine sent this out today and it was such an inspiration, I couldn’t help but to get her permission and share.  If you haven’t watched the video linked here, please take four minutes.  It may be the best 4 minutes of your day!!   Thanks Mo.

Last night, my cousin joined Jesus in heaven. It was tragic. It was unexpected. It was not what my family prayed for. And it hurt…so so much.
I’m am glad to have a Heavenly Father who can handle my anger, my hurt, my frustrations, my critiques. How dare He be so selfish as to snatch up this wonderful woman only 10 months after she married the love of her life…but then I return to the words I memorized so many years ago…

Isaiah 40: 27-31
“Why do you complain, Jacob?
Why do you say, Israel,
“My way is hidden from the Lord;
my cause is disregarded by my God”?
28 Do you not know?
Have you not heard?
The Lord is the everlasting God,
the Creator of the ends of the earth.
He will not grow tired or weary,
and his understanding no one can fathom.
29 He gives strength to the weary
and increases the power of the weak.
30 Even youths grow tired and weary,
and young men stumble and fall;
31 but those who hope in the Lord
will renew their strength.
They will soar on wings like eagles;
they will run and not grow weary,
they will walk and not be faint.

So I will place my Hope in the knowledge that He is the strength that will get my family through this. I know many of y’all are heading into midterms. This verse has always been a comfort to me and that’s why it was high on the list for memory verses to pass on to you all.

These past few days have reminded me once again how quick our time here will be over. Know that I love you all. Greater still, know that I love Jesus like crazy backflip style:

Love and hugs,
Mama Bear Mo


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Prosperity Faith???

English: C-21 Aircraft (USAF Photo)

English: C-21 Aircraft (USAF Photo) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Scripture:  1 Timothy 6:6-12

…who think that godliness is a means to financial gain.

But godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it. But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that. Those who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. 10 For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs.

11 But you, man of God, flee from all this, and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance and gentleness.

Observation:  Obviously, there were some people/pastors/preachers/religious folk who had gone off script.  They were no longer teaching the Word of God and the Good News of Jesus Christ but were adding to it and Paul writes Timothy to give him some guidance in this area.

Application:  In our society today, there are many “mega-pastors” who are preaching a Prosperity message.  Telling their flocks that God wants to bless you and his blessings will make you rich.  In of itself, that is very true.  God does want to bless us and wants to make us rich, but I have a very hard time believing that what God has in mind is to increase our bank accounts and to have pastors flying around the country on private jets.  This doesn’t make sense to me and it doesn’t go along with my interpretation of Scripture.

No where in the Scriptures do we see someone profiting monetarily from their faith in God.  Paul didn’t get rich, he went to prison.  Peter and the other disciples didn’t get rich, they met very violent deaths.  Jesus didn’t get rich, he rode into town (not in a Lear Jet) not even on a big white horse, but on the back of a donkey’s colt.

Wealth and power are a very dangerous combination.  Our blessing is not in a big bank account, a big house, a nice car or even a jet.  Our blessing comes in the form of Faith, Hope, Love, Endurance, Godliness, and righteousness.

Prayer:  God, it’s so easy to desire the nicest things in life and to allow that desire to cloud our faith.  Keep me on track and on point in delivering your message so that I may not fall into those trappings of success that have caused so many good men/women to self-destruct.  Amen

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I once had a chemistry professor (Dr. McKnight) at Hinds Community College who told all his classes upon their first meeting the following statement or something pretty close to it, “In chemistry, it is very easy to get bogged down, confused, overwhelmed and discouraged. When you feel yourself getting to this point, go back to the simplest most foundational point of chemistry. “Matter cannot be created nor destroyed.” All the rest of chemistry is based upon this principle.

As a pastor, it is really easy to get caught up in, bogged down, confused, overwhelmed and discouraged. There is always a meeting going on; someone is always unhappy with something that you said, did or didn’t do; someone who is sick; something that demands your time and always a sermon to prepare. As a member of a congregation, many of these same demands apply and certainly some additional ones.

I believe in these times, and in all times, it is important to remain focused on the foundation. Upon what Christ told us to do. I’ve read the Scriptures, been to seminary and cannot find it anywhere that Christ says we must attend all the committee meetings of the church. (Please don’t yell or throw stuff at me). However, I just can’t seem to find it. I can find in red words where Christ says, “God authorized and commanded me to commission you: Go out and train everyone you meet, far and near, in this way of life, marking them by baptism in the threefold name: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Then instruct them in the practice of all I have commanded you.” The Great Commission.

So, if we are to break it down to the simplest terms, we are to make disciples! Have you ever asked yourself what a disciple looks like; what does one do; what makes up a disciple? These are important questions because if we cannot answer these questions, we don’t know if we are doing what we are commanded to do by Christ himself. And so, here are 4 qualities of someone who is a disciple:

– One who has made Jesus Lord of their life.
– One who has surrendered their life to Christ.
(Luke 9:23, John 8:31)

– One who is being made or remade into the image of Christ.
(John 13:35, 15:8; Romans 8:29; Galatians 5:22)

– Ambassadors of Christ
(John 15:8; Matthew 4:19, 2 Corinthians 5:19-20)

– Being in relationship with other believers
– Learning from other believers
– Supporting other believers/seekers
– Holding and being held accountable for spiritual growth.
(2 Timothy 2:2; Hebrews 3:12; Deuteronomy 6:4)

Being a disciple is much more than giving your one hour a week on Sunday morning, sitting on a hard pew, listening to a sermon. It’s a way of life that is lived 24 hours a day, 7 days a week and 365 days a year. It’s hard! It’s time consuming! It takes you out of your comfort zone! It’s the only thing in life where you will find the JOY the Lord has for you. It’s worth it.

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Stewardship According to John Wesley

An outline of John Wesley‘s Sermon on Stewardship:

The Good Steward”

Summary:  Wesley uses this sermon to explain that we as God’s Stewards are not the owners of what God entrust to us, but temporary custodians.  This applies to our souls, bodies, possessions, time, abilities and opportunities.  Wesley states in this sermon that there will be a day of great judgment when a final accountability will be given for our stewardship.


  1. The Bible describes the created as debtors and servants to the creator.
  2. The best description is that of a steward or manager.
  1. The Nature of Stewardship
  2. The Duration of Our Stewardship
  3. The Final Accounting of Our Stewardship
    1. The Value of Time
    2. How precious is every moment in time.
    3. In using time, no word or deed is truly unimportant.
    4. There are no works that produce excess merit.  We cannot do too much.
    5. It is not easy to give back to God all that he has given us, it will require all our wisdom, perseverance, patience, and faithfulness.
  1. Debtors are obligated to return what they have received, but can use it however they wish until the return.  This is not the case with stewards.
    1. We are obligated to use our blessings as God wishes not ourselves.
    2. Nothing is our own in this world.
  2. God has entrusted us with all that we have received including our minds and souls
  3. In doing God’s will we obtain our own happiness; therefore we should use our blessings for his glory.
  4. God entrust us with our bodies
  5. God has given us the superior capacity for speech and it is to be used to glorify
  6. God has given us our hands and feet and bodies.
  7. God has given us worldly goods of food, clothing, shelter and money.
  8. God has given us the gift of energy, health, favorable appearance, education, knowledge and influence.
    1. The gift of time and the grace of God and the power of the Holy Spirit
  1. We are only stewards for a short time while on earth.
  2. After we die, we won’t need the things God has entrusted to us.
  3. The same applies to the body.
  4. Death ends the need for speech, strength, health and beauty.
  5. What about the other talents such as the “still, small voice”?
  6. Our physical faculties will not probably exist after death, but continue in a greater degree.
  7. We don’t know how much wisdom will remain after death.
  8. Our souls will remain and retain all their faculties.
  9. Our comprehension will be freed from its present defects.
  10.  Some might say that disembodied spirits have no senses but they are dreaming.
  11. The soul will retain its comprehension and the full vigor of its will and affections. 
  12. However we are no longer stewards of these faculties.
  1. After death, we are no longer stewards and must give an accounting.
    1. We don’t know if it is immediate at the time of death.
  2. We are to give the account of our stewardship when “the great white throne and the one who sat on it come down from heave, and the earth and the heaven flee from God’s presence, and no place is found for them.”
  3. God will ask, “How did you use your life?
  4. God will ask, “How did you use your body?”
  5. God will ask, “How did you use your worldly goods?”
  6. God will ask, “Have you been a wise and faithful stewards of all the gifts?”
    1. If so, God will declare, “Well done, good and trustworthy servant; enter into my Kingdom.”
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Growing Generosity by Julie Holly

We know love by this, that he laid down his life for us—and we ought to lay down our lives for one another. How does God’s love abide in anyone who has the world’s goods and sees a brother or sister in need and yet refuses help? Little children, let us love, not in word or speech, but in truth and action. And by this we will know that we are from the truth and will reassure our hearts before him.” 1 John 3:16-19

When we are the recipient of generosity—when someone does something for us— we are more likely to be generous ourselves.  This is a fairly natural and expected response for most of us.  And this is something like what the author of 1 John is saying about how people are expected to act once they have received the gift of God’s love through Jesus

When I say it is expected, I don’t mean that it is expected as in, “I expect you to do this or else…” But expect as in anticipation.  It is more like when you add vinegar to baking soda and you expect it to bubble up.  The natural and expected response to being filled up with God’s love is that one will also flow out with the same.  When we have received love, we are expected to share it with others.

There is also an element of expectation, as in obligation, involved in this as well because in order to live as a person of God, we are expected and commanded to love God and neighbor (Matthew 22:37-39).  But because it is the gift of God’s grace that fills us with love and makes it possible for us to act out of love, then what God commands us, God also gives us the power to do.

One of my favorite quotes about giving is attributed to Amy Carmichael, who was a Christian missionary to India from the early 1900’s.  She left her family, friends, and life in Northern Ireland to serve the people of India for 55 years.  She said to have shared this message, “one can give without loving, but one cannot love without giving”.  That is pretty much what the Gospel of John is saying here: We cannot believe in Jesus without loving, and we cannot love without giving.

In order to grow toward self-sacrificing generosity that embodies the love of God, most of us won’t just jump right in head first.  We need some beginner steps, like…

  • reading what the Bible says about giving
  • praying and seeking God’s guidance
  • giving a little something to see what it is like
  • talking about it with each other—to see how others do it, to receive encouragement, and to be challenged to continue growing

And then finally, we will get to a place when we can live it.  We will not just say that we believe, we will also do what we believe.  Our actions and our lives as individuals and as a church will speak much louder than our words of faith.  We will become generous followers of Jesus.

Julie Holly is the Senior Pastor at Discovery United Methodist Church in Birmingham. You can follow her blog by clicking here! or with this address:

Categories: Church, Faith Journey, Friends, John Wesley, Leadership, Stewardship, Stewardship | Tags: , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Important Invitation

“Yours, O Lord, are the greatness, the power, the glory, the victory, and the majesty; for all that is in the heavens and on the earth is yours; yours is the kingdom, O Lord, and you are exalted as head above all.” -1 Chronicles 29:11 (NRSV Translation)

This verse is part of King David’s ongoing acknowledgement of God’s great works in the world. It is a beautiful passage of praise and thanksgiving that comes from David’s joy in laying the financial foundation that will be used by his son Solomon to build the Temple in Jerusalem. David lifts up this blessing to God, telling the almighty that “all that is in the heavens and on the earth is yours.” We say that a lot, don’t we? We repeat that mantra, that all good things, all blessings, everything comes from God. In fact, I just said it a minute ago before the offertory. The question for us this morning is, do we believe that? Do we believe that everything we have, all our possessions, all our stuff, all our money, really belongs to God? And if you do indeed truly believe that, the next question is, does your life reflect that belief?

Whether you realize it or not, you probably DO believe that God can make a difference in your finances. I would argue that MOST people really do believe that God can affect that financial future, the problem is that most people don’t live into that belief until their finances are in shambles. It’s only when the bottom drops out and our finances are in ruins that we find out we really DO believe this. I cannot tell you how many times I have heard and experienced this prayer in my brief time as minister:
“Dear God, my house is in foreclosure, I’m filing for bankruptcy, I spent my 401K, I am in midst of the worst financial hardship I’ve ever experienced. God, I need your help. I want to give you my life, everything I have, my whole life.”

To which God responds, “But you don’t have ANYTHING. Where were you 6 months ago when you had something to give?”

God doesn’t really respond that way, thankfully. But the question becomes, if you believe that God can have a hand in your finances at rock bottom, wouldn’t it make sense to invite him into your finances now, when things are good (or okay, or at least not ridiculously, terrible)? What is the point of waiting? Because God doesn’t force his way into your bank account or your wallet. You can make sure that God is never involved in your financial future, but I will bet that at some point in time you’re going to ask him in. How about now?
God wants to be invited.

But there is a risk when we invite God into our finances. I use that word invitation with great purpose. When we acknowledge that all things come from God and ultimately belong to God, when we INVITE him into our finances, there is some change that is required. It’s like any other invitation. What do we do as a church when a guest comes in? We do our very best to make them feel comfortable and welcome. I like to think we put the guest before the member here at Morningstar. And I imagine the same is true at your house when you welcome a guest for dinner or stay with you. We re-orient the way that we think and we put the guest first.
In our house, I’ll straighten up before a guest arrives. Then Denise will come behind me and re-straighten all the stuff I thought I had straightened. We plan meals and buy better food than we normally eat. We ask if they need anything? Can I get you something to drink? Are you comfortable? And we’re trying to teach our daughter Maggie how to treat guests. She’s still learning. When someone comes over, they get to choose the game we play or the movie we watch. The guest gets to choose!

And it’s the same when we invite God into our financial lives. It’s God’s choice what we’re going to do first. And here is what God chooses. Turn in your Bibles to Matthew 6:31-33 (page 6 in the New Testament).
Jesus says, “Therefore do not worry, saying, “What will we eat?” or “What will we drink?” or “What will we wear?” 32For it is the Gentiles who strive for all these things; and indeed your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. 33But strive first for the kingdom of God* and his* righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.”

What is the first thing Christ tells us to do? STRIVE FOR THE KINGDOM OF GOD. The Kingdom comes first. Be generous, help the poor, feed the hungry, take care of the widow, the orphan, the alien, care for the least of these, share the Good news. The whole shebang. That is what God wants when we invite him into our finances. And that might sound selfish, but Jesus adds this promise to the end: When you make the Kingdom of God your priority, He will take care of all your other needs. Clothing, food, drink . . .God will take care of those things. It’s a pretty amazing promise. Andy Stanley says it this way, “Here is God, the creator of the universe, who is willing to lower himself and enter into a symbiotic relationship with you and me. When we invest our lives bringing about the Kingdom of God, God promises to take a vested interest in our well-being.”
Now, here’s dangerous part of making this invitation. There is a reason why God has a vested interest in your well being and will continue to provide you with food, and water and a place to live, so long as the Kingdom is your first priority. When you invite God in, when you place your trust in Him and give generously, you are inviting repeat business. If a restaurant or a business gives good service, what do you do? You go back again and again. God remembers the loyal, the capable, and obedient. When you act out of a spirit of generosity, God will be back with another opportunity to give. But so long as you make the Kingdom your priority.
When you invite God into your finances, when you make His Kingdom your priority, more and more you will find that the obstacle of your fear is no obstacle at all. Because you have something you can trust in more than money, something stronger than your fear.

* Some parts of this devotional were greatly influenced by the preaching and books of Andy Stanley, so much so, that there may be some un-credited portions! Apologies to Pastor Stanley if I butchered or unintentionally took credit for any ideas that were his.

This article was written by Rev. John Mullaney.   John is the Morningstar United  Methodist Church’s pastor, and was appointed to the church in the summer of  2008. John’s passions include preaching, pastoral care, and  creating meaningful times of worship. John and his wife, Denise, who is also a United Methodist minister, have  two daughters, Maggie & Lucie. They live in Chelsea

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The Danger of Riches

“The Danger of Riches”

1 Timothy 6:9

SummaryAs the population of the Methodist grew, the found themselves with more members who were wealthy.  Wesley used this sermon to speak on the dangers of wealth and how it could be inlet to sin.  He describes how people should gain as much as they can, save as much as they can and give as much as they can.  Wesley’s belief was to only accumulate what you need and give the rest away.


  1. Many don’t know about the warning in 1 Timothy 6:9
  2. It is not speaking of gaining riches unjustly, but just of being rich.
  3. There are not a whole lot of people preaching this.
  4. May God give me right and forcible words?
    1. To explain the Apostles words
    2. To apply them
  1. To explain the Apostles words.
    1. Provide what is necessary for our family.
    2.  Save up enough to carry on business.
    3.  Enough to leave our children to supply them with necessary
    4.  Pay off our debts.
    5. Applying what has been said
  1. What is it to be rich
    1. Having food and coverings plus more
    2. Riches are above the plain necessaries or conveniences of life.
  2. This also implies those that desire to be rich.
  3. Includes all those that set a purpose of endeavor to get more.
  4. It includes those who lay up treasures on earth.
    1. We are allowed to:
    2. Provide what is necessary for our family
    3. Save up enough to carry on business
    4. Enough to leave our children to supply them with necessary.
    5. Pay off our debts.
  1. This includes all who posses more than they use.  God only lends this to us.  God entrust us to be stewards.
  2. It is for those who find delight in money and seek their happiness in money.
  3. There is a covetousness of money in which people have a desire to have more.
  4. We have a hard time with this and only through God can we understand this and do it.
  5. Those who are rich fall into temptation.
  6. They fall into a snare of the devil that he set.
  7. The fall into hurtful desires
  8. They desire happiness out of God.  They love the creature more than God.
  9. The desire of the flesh has developed a “taste” for the world that is not harmful to the body but to the soul.
  10. The desire of the eyes is the desiring and seeking happiness in gratifying the imagination.
  11. Seeking happiness in learning and not in God.
  12. Seeking to be honored, yearning for the applause.
  13. The desire of having it easy and avoiding trouble, danger, difficulty and a desire of sleeping through life.
  14. Riches lead to foolish and hurtful desires and when one has the means to satisfy, these desires will increase.
  15. As they grow, the desires will cause many sorrows of remorse and end up drowning the body in pain, disease, ‘destruction’, and the soul in everlasting perdition.
  1. How do we put this into practice?
  2. Stop!  Evil is before you and you are running toward the sharp edge of a sword.
  3. Are you endeavoring to be rich?
  4. Are you laying up for yourselves treasures on this earth?
  5. You can gain all you can and save all you can without storing up on earth.
  6. Gain all you can, save all you can without wasting; yet by giving all I can I am protected against laying up treasures on earth.
  7. It’s not the quantity of what we possess, it is how we employ according to the will of our Lord.
  8. Don’t throw the excess away; give it to all men and to the poor.
  9. Your wealth will be a witness against you and destroy you as if it were fire.  Start today!
  10. Money is not going to make you happy, look at those who are already rich.
  11. If you are desiring to be rich, WHY?  It leads to a pit and temptation.
  12. Have these desires not hurt you enough?
  13. Have they not cooled your love of God?
  14. If you get richer, it will destroy your humility. People will think you are better than you are and you will believe them.
  15. The richer you are the means are available to seek revenge and thus goes the meekness.
  16. Your patience is also lost.
  17. You will no longer rejoice to ‘endure hardship’ nor rush to into the Kingdom of Heaven.
  18. You will lose the zeal for works of mercy and piety.
  19. You lose your compassion for the ignorant.
  20. You have heard the warning.
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Stewardship Article by Ron Schultz

The line was long as people moved toward the altar to leave an offering.
Some put in large , impressive amounts of money. One poor widow stepped forward and gave two small copper coins.  Jesus declared to His followers that the two copper coins from the poor Widow was more than anyone else had given.

Wait a minute! How can two small cooper coins be counted as more than the other offerings? Wouldn’t a check for $500 be counted as more than two copper coins in your offering plate?

Jesus says everyone gave out of their abundance that day except the poor Widow. Everyone gave from a heart that said, “out of all that is  mine I will give this to You God.”  Everyone except the poor Widow. She gave from a heart that said,”all that I have belongs to You God. Take what is Yours and I trust You will take care of me.”

Stewardship is the act of managing faithfully things that belong to someone else. Followers of Jesus believe that everything belongs to God.  When it comes to money, it too belongs to God. We have simply been chosen as stewards to manage varied amounts.

Each week,  many of you wonderful followers of Jesus at Union, the Church at Chelsea Park, demonstrate faithful stewardship. Your faithfulness makes ministry happen in your community and around the world through our system of apportioned connectional giving! I continue to be amazed by your stewardship efforts and the way God takes care of you.

“Lord Jesus, thank you for taking care of us. Thank you for trusting us to manage things that belong to You. Give us the faith to always put in Your two cents worth. Amen.”

This article was written by Ron Schultz.  Ron is the District Superintendent of the South Central District in the North Alabama Conference of the United Methodist Church.  Ron graduated from Emory University, Candler School of Theology in 1983 and received his Juris Doctorate from Birmingham School of Law in 1994.  Ron is married to Robin Schultz and has 4 children.

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John Wesley’s View on Money

As we begin our sermon series on the use of money, I thought it would be appropriate to give you an outline on John Wesley‘s view of money.  This sermon can be broken down to 3 points: Gain All You Can, Save All You Can, and Give All You Can.

“The Use of Money”

SummaryWesley uses this sermon to outline the proper use of earning, possessions and wealth with a very articulate statement: “Gain all you can, save all you can, give all you can.”  He uses this as an opportunity to insist that we are not owners of our assets, but stewards.


  1. There will be an accounting of our management of resources.
  2. Money can be bad, but it can also be good.  It can become the eyes to the blind and feet to the lame.
  3. It is one of our highest concerns to know how to use this valuable gift.
  1. Gain all You Can.
  2. Save All You Can
  3. Give All You Can.
  1. Without paying more than its worth; or at the expense of life or health
  2. Without harming our minds
    1. Lying, cheating, practices that are not in good consciences.
  3.  We must never harm others.
  4. Not gain more by harming our neighbor’s bodies.
  5. There are unscrupulous medicine “professionals” and it is clear that they are doing to others what they do not want done in return.
  6. These ways of gaining money comes at a high price.
  7. Cautions and restrictions
    1. Gain all you can by honest industry and diligence
    2. Make the most of your time
    3. Work with all your might.
    4. Do your work as well as possible and in a timely manner.
  8. Use common sense.
  1. Don’t throw your precious gains into the sea
  2. Don’t waste it on desires of the flesh.
  3. Don’t waste on desires of the eye such as fine clothing, houses, paintings, decorations gardens.
  4. Don’t spend to gain the admiration or praise of others.
  5. When we cater to these desires, they only increase.
  6. Don’t buy your kids everything and the best of everything.
  7. Don’t leave the kids money to squander.  Don’t set traps.
  8. Leave your money to the child that knows the value of money.
  1. Don’t stop with gaining and saving all you can.  You must give all you can.
  2. The sole ownership of everything rest with God.
  3. Provide for your basic needs; provide for your family; give the rest to the needy.
  4. How should you spend upon yourself?
    1. Am I acting according to my character?
    2. Am I giving this money in obedience to God’s word?
    3. Can I offer up this action as a sacrifice to God?
    4. Do I believe that I will receive a reward for this work at the resurrection?
  5. If your conscience says that this pleases God then you have no doubt that it is right and good.
  6. In your living and dying, waste nothing on sin or foolishness for yourself or your children.
  7. We cannot be wise or faithful stewards without managing the Lord’s goods in this way.
    1. Lead a life worthy of the dignity of your calling.
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The Transforming “I Will”

On a clear, cool Fall Sunday morning a young family makes their way to the altar of a local United Methodist Church.  They had been attending the services for three months.   After conversations with the pastor, and prayerful consideration, they made the decision to become members of the congregation.  As they approached the chancel rail of the church the pastor met them with a smile.  He asked them to face the congregation as he introduced them.  Then he asked them to re-affirm their commitment to Christ by remembering their baptism, and promising to be loyal to the the United Methodist Church by doing all in their power to strengthen its ministries. [UMH, page 37-38]  After their re-affirmation of commitment to Christ and the church, they were asked the traditional question that is asked of all who join United Methodist congregations.  “As members of this congregation will you faithfully participate in its ministries by your prayers, your presence, your gifts, your service, and your witness?”  (UMH, page 38)  Their response was the same response every United Methodist has given as they began their discipleship journey.  “I will.” 

Each time a new member makes that commitment in our congregations, we as United Methodists, are challenged to renew our commitment and join their voices with a resounding, “I will.” 

It all begins with the promise:  “…will you faithfully participate in ministries by your prayers, your presence, your gifts, your service and your witness?”  Your response of “I will” is the first step in an incredible Wesleyan journey to fulfill the core purpose of your congregation.  How can each person faithfully fulfill their church’s mission of making and growing disciples of Jesus Christ?  They begin in prayer, and continue by being present in study, worship and fellowship.  They celebrate their giftedness from God by being faithful financial disciples.  They become the hands and feet of Jesus at work in the world, and proclaim the word of God both spoken and lived out in a world that hungers for the love of God.

Conversations about stewardship and giving are viewed by some in the church as taboo.  If giving is mentioned only once or twice a year in a congregation, there is often an admonition that “all we ever do is talk about money” at church. Giving is often viewed as “too personal” to be discussed at length in the church.  By making stewardship and giving a forbidden subject Christians give money a mysterious power outside the bounds of theology.     In essence it is given god-like tendencies.  The truth is that stewardship is more about spiritual growth than financial strength or weakness.  It is time that modern Christians celebrate their role as financial disciples of Jesus.

The celebration of financial disciples begins by establishing a healthy theology of stewardship or giving.  Everything we have comes from God, and living out that giftedness in the world is vital to responsible discipleship.   Jesus’ words in the Gospel of Luke were both a truth and a challenge.  “For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.”  (Luke 12:34, New International Version]  The treasure that a Christian posesses is a gift from God to be activated in love from the heart.  The theology of giving is best lived out in the church in three ways.  First, as an act of worship.  Both the Old and New Testaments talked about the offering of our gifts in the context of worship.  Most of those vignettes were in the temple, and were clearly acts of corporate worship.  Secondly,  giving is an expression of faith.  Not only does the Christian recognize the generosity of God in the bountiful gifts they receive, but also in the giving of those gifts they faithfully fulfill God’s purpose in the world.  Finally, stewardship and generosity are a spiritual discipline.  It is easy for modern Christians to have a serious disconnect between faith and money.  A healthy theology of giving helps us remember that our stewardship is about spiritual growth.  William Sloane Coffin began a stewardship sermon at Riverside Church in New York City with the following introduction:  “I have not come today to raise money for the church, I am here to remind you who you are.”  Stewardship and giving are not transactional.  Giving should be transformational for the church, for the world, and most of all of the faithful financial disciple of Jesus.  “I Will”,  these two simple words in response to God’s call in our lives can transform our lives, our church, and our world for Christ.

Article written by Rick Owen.

Rick has over 35 years of experience working with churches and non-profit boards. His passion for visioning, strategic ministry planning, functional- and gift-oriented board structures, leadership development, and the creation of cultures of innovation are refreshing in the world of churches and institutions. He is an experienced teacher, preacher and presenter in a variety of settings. He has served as a minister in churches from 15 members to 4,500 members; he has taught philosophy, ethics, Old Testament and New Testament on the college level, and currently works with leaders, boards and pastors as a strategic ministry coach. He has served on a number of church-related and community boards, and is committed to the vision of empowering people to live out their vision and purpose.

Categories: Church, Church At Chelsea Park, Faith Journey, Influenced By:, Leadership, Stewardship | Tags: , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Wesley’s Sermon: “The Use of Money”

SummaryWesley uses this sermon to outline the proper use of earning, possessions and wealth with a very articulate statement: “Gain all you can, save all you can, give all you can.”  He uses this as an opportunity to insist that we are not owners of our assets, but stewards.


  1. There will be an accounting of our management of resources.
  2. Money can be bad, but it can also be good.  It can become the eyes to the blind and feet to the lame.
  3. It is one of our highest concerns to know how to use this valuable gift.


  1. Without paying more than its worth; or at the expense of life or health
  2. Without harming our minds
    1. Lying, cheating, practices that are not in good consciences.
  3.  We must never harm others.
  4. Not gain more by harming our neighbor’s bodies.
  5. There are unscrupulous medicine “professionals” and it is clear that they are doing to others what they do not want done in return.
  6. These ways of gaining money comes at a high price.
  7. Cautions and restrictions
    1. Gain all you can by honest industry and diligence
    2. Make the most of your time
    3. Work with all your might.
    4. Do your work as well as possible and in a timely manner.
  8. Use common sense.


  1. Don’t throw your precious gains into the sea
  2. Don’t waste it on desires of the flesh.
  3. Don’t waste on desires of the eye such as fine clothing, houses, paintings, decorations gardens.
  4. Don’t spend to gain the admiration or praise of others.
  5. When we cater to these desires, they only increase.
  6. Don’t buy your kids everything and the best of everything.
  7. Don’t leave the kids money to squander.  Don’t set traps.
  8. Leave your money to the child that knows the value of money.


  1. Don’t stop with gaining and saving all you can.  You must give all you can.
  2. The sole ownership of everything rest with God.
  3. Provide for your basic needs; provide for your family; give the rest to the needy.
  4. How should you spend upon yourself?
    1. Am I acting according to my character?
    2. Am I giving this money in obedience to God’s word?
    3. Can I offer up this action as a sacrifice to God?
    4. Do I believe that I will receive a reward for this work at the resurrection?
  5. If your conscience says that this pleases God then you have no doubt that it is right and good.
  6. In your living and dying, waste nothing on sin or foolishness for yourself or your children.
  7. We cannot be wise or faithful stewards without managing the Lord’s goods in this way.

Lead a life worthy of the dignity of your calling.

Categories: Church, Common Everyday Stuff, Faith Journey, Influenced By:, John Wesley, Leadership, Quote | Tags: , , | Leave a comment

Being a Good Father

I am now a Father and I’m learning everyday.  It’s amazing how much I really don’t know.  Here are some of the things I’ve learned about being a father:

  • You don’t mind cleaning up your child’s “throw-up”.  (I’ve always gotten sick from someone throwing up)
  • When they are sick, you want them close to you. ( I used to run from sick people from a fear of catching it.)
  • You’re their parent, not their friend, buddy, companion or partner.  (They have many friends/buddies but only 2 parents.  They need you to be in that role.)
  • Discipline is a part of being a parent.  (The old saying,”This is going to hurt me more than you.” is so true.)
  • Telling them each day how much you love them.
  • Hold them in your lap (At least until they are too big)
  • Know who their friends are and who their friends parents are. (Aside from you, their friends will have the most influence on their lives.)
  • Set boundaries for your children/teenagers.  They won’t set them on their own, but you’re teaching them how to do this preparing them for tomorrow.
  • Play the X-Box/football/baseball/sports with them and let them win (sometimes but losing on purpose all the time is a bad lesson in itself.) Go hiking, camping, fishing with the boys and shopping, dress up, and nails with your girls.
  • Teach them to fail forward, persistence, courage, honor and committment.
  • Introduce them and teach them to respect new cultures, people who are different, and other religions.
  • Teach them Grace by your actions.
  • Teach them the importance of money (checking account, saving, budgets, and investing) AND that money is NOT the most important thing and is NOT what makes them valuable.
  • Show them how to be a husband (or what to look for in a husband) by the way you treat and love their Mom.
  • Don’t spend all your time at work.  Your employer of 20 years will forget you 1 week after you’re gone but your children will miss you for a lifetime.
  • Teach them to tithe.
Categories: Family, Friends, John Personal, John's Rant (opinion), Lessons I've Learned as a Dad | Tags: , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

6 HUGE Mistakes a Pastor Can Make

I’m now coming up on my 10th year in ministry and I’ve discovered some mistakes (some I’ve made and some I’ve seen) which can greatly limit a pastors ministry.  Here is what I have found:

  • Mistake 1.  Micro-managing your staff/volunteers.  If there is a need to micro-manage because the job may not get done correctly, then why are they in that position to begin with.  However, most micro-managing is the result of a Pastor’s own lack of self-confidence.  Pastor’s must get over themselves and get out-of-the-way of others.
  • Mistake 2.  Not Empowering staff nor congregation to do ministry.  Many pastors are not handing over the reigns of ministry to the laity.  When you don’t empower others for ministry, the ministry is limited/held back according to what YOU can accomplish.  When others are empowered, the ministry will grow exponentially.  A large role of the pastor is to train others and empower them to do ministry.  I tell me congregation that when someone is sick and in the hospital, I hope I’m the last one to arrive because everyone else has beaten me to the hospital.
  • Mistake 3.  It’s All About Me!  I call this the “Glory Hog” and they want all the glory to themselves.  “Did you see what Pastor_______ is doing at XYZ Church!”  is what they strive to hear.  Ministry is not for our glory but for the glory of God.
  • Mistake 4.  It’s Gotta Be My Way:  A true recipe for failure.  You’re only a leader if people are following you.  This is not a dictatorship and yes there are times when a pastor needs to hold his/her ground especially when there is a doctrine, theological, or moral issue.  BUT some compromise is more often the case.
  • Mistake 5.  Not Maintaining Confidentiality :  Un-ethical/damaging/heartless and DUMB.  The only time confidentiality should be broken is in the case of abuse or fear for someones life.
  • Mistake 6.  Not Setting Goals and Informing Congregation: If a church does not know where it is going and the direction it will be taking to arrive at its destination, how will it know when it arrives?  These goals cannot be the personal secret of the pastor.  Sharing these goals can/should motivate the congregation to achieve the goals IF they are in line with the vision of the church.
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What Is It? The Wesley Quadrilateral…


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The Wesley quadrilateral is a method of exploring and understanding God. John Wesley adopted and adapted three of these position from the Church of England (Scripture, Reason, and Tradition), and he added Experience to form the quadrilateral.


John Wesley believed as I do, that Scripture must be primary among the other sources.  Wesley believed that the Scriptures were the infallible word of God, and to him this meant that the Bible will not fail in life, faith, and practice.  I believe that Scripture provides all things necessary that one is to know for salvation, and that it is the primary source and authority for our faith.  Nothing can override the primacy of God that is revealed in Scriptures, thus the Bible is used to judge all other positions.

While Wesley believed in the infalliblilty of Scriptures, that does not mean that we as United Methodist believe in the inerrancy of the Bible.  As one is reading Scriptures, he/she must keep in mind that the writers were influenced by their culture and traditions.  As we read Scripture, we must look beyond the cultural differences and allow the Holy Spirit to guide us in the discernment of what God is communicating to us. We must also be careful not to isolate passages but to base our doctrine and beliefs on Scripture as a whole.  Taking individual passages out of context has led to doctrines such as predestination and women being subservient to men.  Throughout Scripture it is found that God’s grace is available to all and not just a select few.


Tradition is those beliefs, practices, and customs that the Church has passed down over the centuries.  We don’t have to “re-invent the wheel” of Christianity.  Tradition affirms and places value in past works through which God’s work and action is seen.   It is through the traditions that we have the hymns, creeds, and liturgy that add to the value of our faith.

I found through my experiences with contemporary worship that people who have not been to church in years oftentimes will feel a strong attachment to an old hymn.  It might connect them to their childhood, a memory, or some sort of familiarity they have with God.  We may sing it in a different way or use different instruments, but the words and meaning transcend the ages and continue to minister.

Tradition is and should be held in high regard by the Church, but it should never contradict or supercede Scripture.  It also should never hold us back from growing closer to God.  I once heard the seven deadliest words to a church are, “We’ve never done it that way before.”  Yet, these words are implied/said when using a different type of musical instrument is rejected.  Those words are said when new ways of reaching people are discarded because “it’s never been done that way.” God uses people each and every day, and God will use people in the future to create new traditions that will continue sharing the love and grace of Jesus Christ with the world.


Reason is the means by which Scripture and Tradition can be examined and understood by a thoughtful person.   It is through reason that we ask good questions and seek to gain the understanding of God’s will for our lives.  My United Methodist Theology and Doctrine professor in seminary described reason in this way: “God gave you a brain and wants you to use it.  It is through reason that we can study and interpret the Scriptures, we can ask and search for answers to questions of faith, and we can discern where God is calling us.”


John Wesley added Experience to the Anglican trilogy of Scripture, Tradition, and Reason.  The experiences we have in our everyday lives interact with our reading of Scripture.  We read Scripture through the lens of our own personal life experiences.  If one is in the midst of a struggle or oppression, he/she will read the Scripture through the lens of someone in need of freedom and release.  I have seen this through a woman who was living in an abusive marital situation.  She would cling to the hope of freedom found in her Bible about how God delivers His people from oppression.  Her life experiences played a large role in her reading of Scripture and understanding of God.  Our personal experiences allow us to find and apply Scriptural truths in our real-life situations.

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