Tag Archives: transformation

Embracing A New Normal

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This is an exciting time for Christendom. I’m reminded of the scripture found in Isaiah 43:16-21, MSG Bible, “This is what God says, the God who builds a road right through the ocean, who carves a path through pounding waves, The God who summons horses and chariots and armies—they lie down and then can’t get up; they’re snuffed out like so many candles: “Forget about what’s happened; don’t keep going over old history. Be alert, be present. I’m about to do something brand-new.  It’s bursting out! Don’t you see it? There it is! I’m making a road through the desert, rivers in the badlands. Wild animals will say ‘Thank you!’ —the coyotes and the buzzards—Because I provided water in the desert, rivers through the sunbaked earth, Drinking water for the people I chose, the people I made especially for myself, a people custom-made to praise me.”

COVID19 has created a new normal in this global society for years to come. Even the church has been affected. I illustrate:

  • Churches have remained empty, but functional
  • Ministers are learning to adapt from traditional building worship to online, teleconferencing, and live streaming platforms.
  • Steward Boards and Officers are creating ways for members and friends to give online, by mail, or text to give.
  • The class leader system is resurfacing due to necessity of the hour.
  • District, Regional, Episcopal, and Connectional meetings are being reshaped for online delivery.

Indeed, this is a new normal. When I was in the military, we had an exercise called running in place. It was excellent for getting our heart rate up but did little for moving forward. There was forward momentum nor forward progress. I wonder if we are changing to reflect God’s new move or just running in place, waiting for things to return the way they were.

I believe this is a time to examine our ways as a denomination. I believe we should ask the question what rituals, meetings, gatherings, modes of operation and methods have become too cumbersome to serve this present age. This is a challenge for our College of Bishops, General Officers, Presiding Elders, Pastors, and Lay Leaders.  We can not assume that we will ever go back to business as usual. Can we discern what God’s new normal is for our church?

Matthew 9:14-17, MSG Bible, reads, “A little later John’s followers approached, asking, “Why is it that we and the Pharisees rigorously discipline body and spirit by fasting, but your followers don’t?”

15 Jesus told them, “When you’re celebrating a wedding, you don’t skimp on the cake and wine. You feast. Later you may need to pull in your belt, but not now. No one throws cold water on a friendly bonfire. This is Kingdom Come!” 16-17 He went on, “No one cuts up a fine silk scarf to patch old work clothes; you want fabrics that match. And you don’t put your wine in cracked bottles.”

In the age of G5 and Corona Viruses (of which many other strains will arise in the coming months) what of our structure can we renovate to “serve this present age.”  In a cultural slang, we have heard it said, “Don’t throw out the baby with the bath water.” Meaning, preserve the essentials, throw out the excessive or nonessential. This is the question for every leader and the College of Bishops are wrestling even now to establish such distinctions.

This is new for us all and we all must support our leadership, adjust to the new normal, and remember our theme for this quadrennial which I doubt was designed to address this pandemic but which certainly is apropos for this pandemic.  Our theme is “Getting back to the basics as we envision our way forward taking care of God’s business.”  This is both prophetic and relevant for our present circumstances and for moving forward into our new normal.

Let us unite to pray, fast, and seek God’s hand at work in this present age.  Are we the church being led by God’s Spirit, able to answer this challenge, and meet the needs of the present age or are we kicking and screaming to return to the old way?

Well I believe conditions force us to rethink what is Methodist and what it means to be a Christian Methodist Episcopal Church. I believe we have the right leaders, in the right places, to receive from the Lord – through collaboration, deliberation, and experimentation – to guide us boldly into this new normal.

The Louisiana Region Annual Conference is strategically forming a plan to move from the precautions of social distancing due to the Corona Virus pandemic to one which will address the critical facets of the brick and mortar Annual Conference in light of the new normal.  To that end, we have cancelled our normal Annual Conference and are looking at the legal and traditional requirements to necessary for the Teleconference Annual Conference format.

We trust that the good people of the Louisiana Region will engage in this discussion with your Pastors, Presiding Elders, and your Bishop.

 

Hope Is….

Hope Is the Belief That Anything Is Possible!

Put yourself in Mary’s shoes for a minute. You’re in your room late at night when an angel appears out of nowhere and tells you you’re going to get pregnant (without having sex) and that your son will reign like a king.

To say this is hard to believe would be an understatement. But after receiving this mind-blowing news, Mary does not question God’s fulfillment of His promises. Her only question is a practical one: “How will this be…since I am a virgin?” (Luke 1:34). Instead of getting caught up in questions like “Why me?” or “Are you sure?”, Mary’s response is, “OK. How’s this going to work?”

In this moment, Mary shows us what it means to live in hope. Living in hope is realizing that nothing is impossible with God. The same God who made a way for a virgin to give birth wants to do the impossible in our lives today. The wayward child who leaves you sleepless night after night is within God’s reach. The cancer that threatens a loved one’s life is not beyond God’s ability to heal.

Living in hope, Mary believed God and pursued the sign He gave her. For us, living in hope looks exactly the same—believing that nothing is impossible with God and doing what God has put on our hearts to do. We may not know how all the details will work out, but God always does what He says He’ll do.

Pray:

Jesus, give me the faith to believe that nothing is impossible and the courage to face what’s before me today. Even though I may not understand how this will all come together, I put my hope in You.

Reflect:

Is there a longing God placed on your heart that seems impossible to fulfill? How can you take a step today to put action to your faith?

(From Bible App Reading Plan “Hope Is”)

From a Caterpillar to a Butterfly

What did the caterpillar feel as the cocoon slowly engulfed its body? Metamorphosis is a scary proposition. Trust in God has to be firmly established in order to surrender to such a process.  And that’s why it doesn’t happen overnight.  Salvation is instant but sanctification takes a lifetime. Therefore, it’s important to be patient with oneself.  Even the cocoon took time to transform the caterpillar.  When your transformation seems problematic or unusually delayed, trust the God of the process.  God has designed the process to fit your true self.  For God loves the caterpillar just as much as God loves the butterfly.  God loves the you you are now just as much as the you you are becoming.  So love yourself and love the journey.

What the Resurrection Means to Me

Image“I wish I could do it all over again;” “I wish I could take it back.”  These phrases depict some of the times in my life when I have hurt, insulted, or denigrated someone.   When I have said or did someone wrong, my heart’s cry is to turn the tables around, push the rewind button, start over.  Often, I can’t. Redemption escapes me. There is no way to make what I did wrong, right. “I’m sorry” does not clear my conscience and alleviate the remorse I feel.

Yet, I have found hope in the resurrection.  The resurrection provides forgiveness, reassurance, and transformation.  The story of the Passion of Christ offers all who have found themselves in situations which are unredeemable, hope and healing.  Through the resurrection story, I realize the great lengths God went through to provide forgiveness in places where forgiveness by people could not penetrate.  In the depth of my soul, the forgiveness found in Jesus travels so that I can once again operate in peace and soundness of mind and spirit.  

This gives me reassurance that all hope is not lost when sins against humanity cannot be repaired.  God reassures me through forgiveness that God is with me and that God still loves me.  I can begin again; even when I deny Christ, desert Christ’s teachings, or distance myself from the Christian faith, I can return to the cross and find forgiveness and reassurance.

Finally, the resurrection provides transformation; I am changed from the inside out.  As John Wesley aptly spoke, “My heart is strangely warmed.”  An encounter with Jesus and his Passion Story opens my heart to God and provides insight I could not have attained otherwise.  I can be changed; I do not have to remain the same.  God is a God of another chance; God’s mercy is limitless and his grace is aboundingly efficacious.

Doors to a new life are opened for me through the resurrection; the resurrection means forgiveness, assurance, and transformation to me.

 

God Demands a Response to Jesus

Again the next day after John stood, and two of his disciples; And looking upon Jesus as he walked, he saith, Behold the Lamb of God! And the two disciples heard him speak, and they followed Jesus. (John 1:35-37 KJV)

In the Movie, Deliver Us From Eva, LL Cool J is hired by three men to woe a woman away from her sister.  Her brother-in-laws have described her as a devil from hell.  Before meeting her, LL agrees to woe Eva, played by Gabrielle Union and take her away from her sisters so the brother-in-laws can have more influence over their wives.  However, when he actually meets Eva, LL is awestruck. He cannot deceive her because he finds her altogether lovely and now wants to spend his entire life with her.  So immediately, the plan is foiled because LL Cool J has made a decision to love Eva.  It was a radical, costly decision, not logical, critical, or methodical.  His heart and head joined together to attain the woman of  his dreams.  That was an irrational move.

This passage illustrates clearly how irrational following Jesus can be.  Here we have two disciples of John the Baptist upon being made known who  Jesus is immediately walk away from John to follow Jesus.  They move without forethought, without going on a retreat, without having to pray about it, they move without consulting anyone else, they simply walk away from their past life and begin to follow Jesus.  There is something to be said for people who have a sense of when to move forward and do so with clarity of purpose.  These two disciples wanted to know Jesus in a more personal way and so they left John’s ministry to go with Jesus.  They didn’t even know where Jesus lived or what Jesus was about.  They had not even heard one message from Jesus to justify their actions.  When John the Baptist identified Jesus as the one promised in the scriptures, the Messiah, something in their heart resonated with that proclamation and they responded in radical fashion.

The fact of the matter is some of us are just  too cautious about changing when clearly the time for change has come.  We procrastinate just because procrastination is what we do.  But when you meet Jesus, Jesus calls for action, immediate, swift, decisive action.  Either you love him or you don’t but you can’t just sit around and think about it.  This morning Jesus is looking for radical disciples, those who will throw caution to the wind and follow him with their whole hearts.

Critical thinking has its place, reasoned thought has its place, but when the gospel is preached, when you meet The Lord Jesus Christ, your mind and heart births faith to believe or reproach to reject Jesus.    Paul put it this way in Romans 1:16-17, “For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek. For therein is the righteousness of God revealed from faith to faith: as it is written, The just shall live by faith” (Romans 1:16, 17 KJV).

God’s salvific action is revealed “from faith to faith” from person to person.  What Jesus needs is somebody like John, somebody like Andrew who will witness as to who Jesus is.  Andrew  first concern was his brother  and  goes looking for  Simon and exclaims, “We have found the Messiah” and then brings Simon to Jesus. By the preponderance of the scholarship regarding this statement John also finds his brother James and brings him to Jesus.  Thus, John brings his brother James, Andrew brings his brother Simon and the first four disciples begin to follow Jesus.

God demands a response from each one of us when Jesus is proclaimed as the Messiah.  It is a response based on faith not logic, not critical thinking, not being persuaded by scientific inquiry, but being instantly converted by faith in the gospel of Jesus Christ.  God demands an instant, unequivocal, irrevocable response, either I will follow Jesus or I will not follow Jesus.  All who try to procrastinate, put off, or reason, end up not following Jesus.  But when you follow Jesus, you become a new person.  I want to ask you, what will your response be to the gospel of Jesus Christ?