Expressing Worship Through Living

Last month I wrote an article on “How To Worship Online.” Today I want to continue that thought with some ideas regarding  how we express worship in our daily living.  It is one thing to come into the Sanctuary or the Worship Center or even connect with our phone or computer each Sunday and be a part of corporate worship; expressing praise and adoration to the creator of the universe, singing of our love for our Savior, reading scripture together, praying, hearing the word of God spoken. It is quite another thing, however, to carry these expressions into the outside world, a world where such expressions are quite often eschewed. Here are a few tips on taking your love for God into the world.


  1. Don’t be timid, love God to the fullest in everything you do. We have all heard the expression “What would Jesus do.” Take this expression to heart. Think about your actions in every circumstance: at home interacting with family, at work interacting with co-workers, shopping, driving… Remember how Jesus interacted with others in His life.
  2. Love your neighbor as yourself. Remember that your neighbor is not necessarily the person who lives in  the house next to yours but everyone you encounter during your daily routine. This command of Jesus reminds us that we should treat others in a way that we would want to be treated – with gentleness, with love and kindness.
  3. Look for opportunities to express the love of Jesus. Opportunities abound in which you can invoke your love for Jesus. Be proactive in seeking out these opportunities. A word of peace to a troubled soul, A prayer with someone you may not know who is suffering.  Helping  those who are poor. Visiting the sick. Even making a phone call to someone who is lonely.  Do something to brighten the day for someone who is going through a rough time.
  4. Express the joy of your salvation. Approach life with a positive attitude. It is easy sometimes especially when we let our guard down to lose our joy. Just remember you are a child of God and God wants nothing but the best for you.
  5. Lead others to follow Christ. By word and by deed your faith will be expressed to those around you. Live your life in such a way that others would want to find that spark of joy they see in you. Don’t hesitate to give witness to the saving knowledge you have found in Christ.

There is a familiar statement that is often etched into the stone header over the doors of many churches that reads like this: Enter to Worship – Depart to Serve  The real question for us today is: what will we do when we leave our place of worship. Let us depart to serve.

Bill Tiemann                                                             

Traditional Worship Leader & Pastoral Care Minister

Don’t Get Your Hopes Up!

Really?   Is that the wisdom of the day?  To minimize the desires of the heart so that the sting of disappointment is bearable!  I had hoped that this Covid stuff would have been over by now, but I’m told to not get my hopes up.  I was hoping that we would be having Sunday morning worship together by now, but I guess I had my hopes too high.  I had even hoped that my Texas Longhorns were going to be able to play their rematch with the LSU Tigers, but once again, I am reminded that I shouldn’t have gotten my hopes up.

Well, I don’t know about you, but I am tired of hearing about hopelessness.  In fact, I am sick of it!  One of my favorite Scriptures on hope comes from Proverbs 13:12 “Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a longing fulfilled is a tree of life.”  Imagine that, having hope but waiting for a future day to be fulfilled by it.  I can understand the world falling into a rut like that, but for those of us who have faith in the Almighty, we don’t have an excuse. For God’s word in Hebrews tells us that “faith is the confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see (11:1).”  So just because I can’t see hope, doesn’t mean it is not there.

In chapter 5 of the book of Romans, Paul tells us that “hope does not disappoint us,” so why wait, come on, go ahead and get your hopes up!  Dallas Willard tells us that “hope is the confident anticipation of good.”  What a great attitude to have to start your day. You have probably heard it said that there are only two ways to wake up in the morning, “good morning Lord,” or “oh Lord, it’s morning!”  Likewise, you can choose to hope and anticipate good, or default to fear which is “the anticipation of evil.”  So, I don’t know about you, but I want to get my hopes up!

You know, even if we think our hopes have been dashed, the good Lord might have a different plan for us.  Even when we think hope is gone it just might be that we can’t see it yet.  The two disciples on the road to Emmaus on that day of resurrection show us that the greatest of hopes can sometimes be veiled!  You see Luke tells us in his 24th chapter that the two on the road talking to an unrecognizable Jesus confessed “we had hoped that he (Jesus) would be the one who was going to set Israel free!” Little did they know at the time that hope was looking at them square in the eyes.

So, I acknowledge to you that I have listened to the world proclaim, “don’t get your hopes up,” one time too many.  I choose not to defer hope. How, you might ask?  By meditating on God’s word, that’s how. You see, the two on the road to Emmaus, received hope and initially didn’t even know it.  “And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he (Jesus) explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself (Luke 24:27).”  That revelation gave them the hope that they thought they had lost.  In Jesus Christ there is always hope!

So even though we continue to have Covid in our lives today, we still have hope. And even though we are not gathering Sunday mornings yet, we have hope for the day we will.  And you know, it’s not a big deal Texas and LSU won’t be playing their game together, Texas would have won anyway!

Grace and Peace,

Scott Kaak

A Call to Remembrance

Remember and Honor

“Hello, this is the Stricklin residence.”

I will never forget where I was when the phone rang. It was a typical Saturday in October. Dad had gone to pick-up take-out from our favorite Chinese restaurant, and mom was cleaning the house while I sat in the coveted pink recliner – dad’s chair – and watched TV. 

Like a good daughter, I quickly emerged from my television-induced stupor and answered the phone. 

The very brief conversation that followed is a bit of a blur. I re

member someone with a very authoritative voice telling me he was trying to contact my father. He had a rank and title that sounded military, but I can honestly say I was too shocked to understand the details. I quickly ran the phone to my mom and thrust it into her explaining that SHE needed to talk to this man.

It wasn’t long after that I was back in my chair trying to eavesdrop on the conversation in the other room. Soon after, my very strong mother came speed walking into the living room looking f

or her cell phone. With tears in her eyes she said these words, “It’s Adam. He’s dead. I need your father.”

Adam Quinn was a member of our church. He was the eldest son of one of the sweetest couples that I’ve ever met and the older brother of the coolest kid in the youth group. I never had the chance to know Adam in the way others did, but I have been honored to call his mother, Sherri, one of my adopted moms.

You see, Adam was serving in Kabul, Afghanistan, with the U.S. Army 82nd Airborne Division. His pregnant wife, Faye, was also in the military and anxiously awaited Adam’s return from the war so they could begin their life as a family of three. Unfortunately, Adam never returned home. He noticed a friend of his had not been able to rest after driving caravans for multiple days – so Adam said he would take his place. It was during that last drive that they encountered a car bomb outside Kabul, and it was there that Adam left this world.

Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends. John 15:13 ESV

Memorial Day is a time where we gather to remember those who have given the ultimate sacrifice for this country. We remember people like Adam who lived out John 15:13.

For a long time I found great sadness in this day. I focused on the loss that my friends had experienced. I focused on the missed school plays, graduations, and life events. I thought about everything that could have been.

That is not what Memorial Day is about.

In that same chapter we read the following:

12 “This is my commandment, that you love 

one another as I have loved you. 13 Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends. 14 You are my friends if you do what I command you. 15 No longer do I call you servants, for the servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you. 16 You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide, so that whatever you ask the Father in my name, he may give it to you. 17 These things I command you, so that you will love one another.

Jesus does not stop after verse thirteen. He has chosen us, appointed us to more. We are not called to remember the sacrifice of others so that we mourn their loss. We remember their sacrifice as the greatest example of God’s love. The love that God then calls us to share and demonstrate to one another (17).

Yes, healing comes through grief. And as Christians we grieve the loss of life. But this Memorial Day I urge you to remember those who have sacrificed and remember God’s love and be grateful. Remember that we worship a God who understands loss. A God who understands sacrifice. He knows the brokenness of the World and He redeems it! Praise God!

We do not celebrate war. We do not celebrate death. What we celebrate is the visible reminder of God’s love. Greater love has no one than this. We remember, and we take that love with us into the world.

[author] [author_image timthumb=’on’]https://www.christchurchbham.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/02/G_M38-1.jpeg[/author_image] [author_info]Mary Lytle is the Minister of Communications at Christ Church United Methodist. She holds a bachelor’s degree in biology from Asbury University and a Master of Arts in Ministry from Asbury Theological Seminary. Mary grew up as a preacher’s kid in Deland, Florida. Now, Mary lives in Helena, Alabama with her husband George. She has a passion for discipleship and young adult ministry. George and Mary hope to positively impact the University of Montevallo campus where George is the newest Mathematics professor. [/author_info] [/author]

Let’s Shake On It!

It seems awkward to think about what Sunday morning hospitality at Christ Church will be like after we finally get through all this Covid-19 stuff.  So much of my Sunday morning ministry is displayed by a heart felt “good morning” (usually 2-3 feet away from the recipient), a firm welcoming handshake, and a smile.  But recently, I have heard from at least one of our country’s top disease specialist, Dr. Anthony Fauci, that we “may never shake hands again.”  How can that be I ask myself?

For centuries the handshake and others forms of touching have been the foundation of cultural and professional hospitality between individuals. According to Manners & Customs of Bible Times (Gower, 2000 p.189), the traditional greeting “involved the laying on of hands on each other’s shoulders then a pulling together and the giving of a kiss, first on the right cheek and then on the left.”  Samuel kissed Saul when he anointed him (1 Samuel 10:1), Simon the Pharisee failed to greet Jesus in such a way when he came as a guest to his home (Luke 7:45), and Paul wrote “Greet one another with a holy kiss” (Romans 16:16).

Years ago, I remember leading First Methodist Opelika Alabama’s Prison Ministry away from simply putting items (candy, books, paper and pens) on a table for the inmates to grab and take as they please.  Instead I encouraged volunteers to hold the items in their hands and then give them to the inmates who desire them (and to do so with a smile looking them in the eyes).  I called it the giving of God’s Grace, and it became a form of greeting that was transformative to many of those inmates. They didn’t just take something, they received something!

So, what will the good people of Christ Church be able to do when we are finally invited back together?  How will we greet, and fellowship, and worship together?  Unfortunately, I do not have an answer for you at this time.  But I believe God has an answer.  I have faith that God will show us how to lovingly greet one another, how to have a cup of coffee and joyful fellowship with each other, and how we will stand together and praise His Holy Name.  I believe that so strongly that I am willing To Shake On it!

Grace and Peace,
Scott Kaak
First Impressions Minister

[seriesengine_wo enmse_dss=4 enmse_pag=20 enmse_apag=12 enmse_e=1 enmse_r=1 enmse_sort=1]

What is Holy Week?

By Michael Bowman

If man had his way, the plan of redemption would be an endless and bloody conflict. In reality, salvation was bought not by Jesus’ fist, but by His nail-pierced hands; not by muscle but by love; not by vengeance but by forgiveness; not by force but by sacrifice. Jesus Christ our Lord surrendered in order that He might win; He destroyed His enemies by dying for them and conquered death by allowing death to conquer Him.”
― A.W. Tozer
Holy Week is, simply put, the week between Palm Sunday and Easter Sunday.

This is the last week of Lent, where we remember the last week of Jesus’ life on Earth.

 

Palm Sunday

We begin with Palm Sunday, where we remember the triumphal entry of Jesus into Jerusalem (Matthew 21:1-11, Mark 11:1-11, Luke 19:28-44, and John 12:12-19). Most Palm Sunday services begin with what is called “the Procession of the Palms,” where the congregation is given and holds palm branches as they make their way into the church to begin the service.

You may have heard Palm Sunday referred to as Passion Sunday. That is because we are on the very cusp of Christ’s “passion week,” where God takes the brokenness of his people onto his own self, in Jesus, and, by doing so, makes all things new.

The significance of Palm Sunday is the transformation that takes place before us. Everything is about to change. At the begging of the week, we cry out, “Hosanna!” Yet, soon, these cries will turn from, “Hosanna!” to “Crucify him!”

And this transition, from celebration and excitement to the bloodthirsty cries for crucifixion and death, is the tone of Holy Week.

Jurgen Moltmann reminds us, “At the centre of Christian faith is the history of Christ. At the centre of the history of Christ is his passion and his death on the cross” (The Way of Jesus Christ, 151).

This is an ominous beginning, but we can take heart because we know what’s coming. There will be a resurrection. Yet, we must remember, there is no resurrection without first having death.

 

Maundy Thursday

As we make our way through the week, we find ourselves at Maundy Thursday. This is the night that we reenact the last meal that Jesus shared with those who were closest to him, his closest friends…his 12 disciples.

Most Maundy Thursday services will recall Jesus washing the disciples’ feet. In this very act, and in participating in such an act ourselves, we are able to realize that our own spiritual maturity begins when we love without expecting anything in return.

In fact, we might find ourselves praying, as St. Francis did, that God would “grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled as to console, to be understood as to understand, to be loved as to love.” As we retell and remember the story of Jesus’ last night with his disciples, we are able to “make real once again God’s love for us and to illustrate how we are to love” (A Pilgrim People, 16).

Each year on Maundy Thursday, we remember that we are all called to be a community of love and embody the story we tell the world. In breaking bread together, we are reminded of the ultimate Sacrifice.

 

Good Friday

And then, we wake up the next day to Good Friday. A day in which we remember all of the events leading up to and including Jesus’ crucifixion.

The story of Good Friday brings us to the reality of suffering in our own lives and the lives of those around us. Yet, it also reveals to us that, even in our suffering, we are not alone.

Remember when Isaiah foretold Jesus’ coming, the prophet said that he would be called Immanuel, God with us. God is with us. He put on flesh to be with us. He gave us his Spirit to be not only with us but live inside of us. That means that even in death, suffering, pain, mourning, or hurting, God is still with us. So Good Friday may be a day of sorrow, but it is not a day of hopelessness.

On Good Friday, we remember Jesus’ death, but we are reminded of what this death allows us to see: his sacrificial love for us. In the death of Jesus, God was able to free the world from the stronghold of evil.

John H. Westerhoff III shares with us, Good Friday “is the story of the death of Jesus from God’s perspective; it is the victory of God not in spite of death but by and through death. The cross has become the tree of life.”

 

Holy Saturday

The next day, Holy Saturday is a time of solitude and sabbath. It is a chance for us to meditate on the time that Jesus was dead and buried. This Saturday is one of anticipation because we know the end of the story.

We know that death is not the end. We know that, soon, Jesus is walking out of that tomb. Yet, we wait with anticipation and longing. We await the coming of the third day, where our true hope is found.

 

Easter Sunday

Morning breaks the next day as the story continues.

Three words ring in our ears, playing over and over again in our minds, bringing warmth to our cold and weary hearts: Christ is risen!

On this day, everything that we believe about God is at stake. Our very faith hinges on it. If Christ did not rise, then we are still lost and bound for death. On Easter Sunday, we celebrate the resurrection of Jesus from the dead! The story of Easter is the story of how God acted on behalf of his creation. On Easter, God made everything new and redeemed all things.

Because of Easter, you and I are new people living in a new world.

We fell away from what we were intended to be, as beloved daughters and sons created to bear the image God. Yet, on Easter, our image was restored. We have been mended back together, and our broken relationship with God has been made right again. This does not mean that evil no longer exists, for it does. However, its power is no longer final. We are living in the already but not yet, where all is now new, and yet God is continuing to restore all things. And this is what we come together to celebrate on Easter Sunday: the passion, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
[author] [author_info]Michael is the grateful husband to Sara. They are the lucky parents of their son, Grady.
Michael has earned a B.A. in Religious Studies from UT-Chattanooga, and a Master of Divinity with an emphasis in Church Planting from Asbury Theological Seminary.
Michael enjoys spending time with Sara, running, good coffee, reading, and playing with their son. Being from Memphis, he is an avid Memphis Grizzlies fan.[/author_info] [/author]

A Word from Pastor Paul on the Methodist Protocol

A Word from Pastor Paul on the Methodist Protocol

By Paul Lawler

 

Grace to you, Christ Church family.

Last Friday, many of you read the news of leaders in The United Methodist Church entering into an agreement for a protocol of an amicable separation of the denomination.  You can read the actual document here.  I trust the news of the United Methodist denomination splitting did not catch you off guard since I have kept you informed on these developments through blog posts, “Word(s) from Pastor Paul” delivered to your email inbox, Fireside Chats in worship gatherings, meetings with Sunday school classes, small groups, and numerous meetings with church members over meals and cups of coffee.

As I have shared before, the United Methodist denomination is in a constitutional crisis.  The United Methodist Book of Discipline, which every ordained minister has vowed to uphold, is blatantly being disobeyed by bishops and ministers in several Annual Conferences throughout the United States. Because of the ongoing violation of by-laws, new legislation was passed by a simple majority vote at last year’s called General Conference to seek to restore good order to the denomination.  Regardless, bishops and clergy in multiple regions of the United States have continued to defy the order of the church, which is the very covenant they vowed to uphold upon their ordination. In the words of one pastor, “the anarchy has been excruciating.”

The United Methodist denomination is also in theological crisis.  Contrary to what you hear in the news media, the divide in U.S. United Methodism is not just about the theological view of the body and human sexuality.  Human sexuality, and the attempts to redefine marriage for the church, is merely the presenting issue that is a symptom of much deeper issues.  Dr. Timothy Tennent, President of Asbury Theological Seminary, which educates more future United Methodist clergy for pastoral ministry than any seminary in the world, unpacks this issue in another way through his article titled, Orthodoxy vs. Heterodoxy: The Fundamental Divide in the United Methodist Church.  David French refers to this in his post, The Sad, Necessary Division of the United Methodist Church.   Here’s a brief quote from his article:

The secular media will cast the divide primarily in the terms it understands—as focused on “LGBT issues”—but that’s incomplete. The true fracturing point between Mainline and Evangelical churches is over the authority and interpretation of scripture. The debate over LGBT issues is a consequence of the underlying dispute, not its primary cause…there is a strain of Protestant Christianity that views the Bible as valuable but not infallible or inerrant. Evangelical Christians, by contrast, strongly dissent from that view.

The reason the most recent plan for dividing the United Methodist Church received so much media attention last week is rooted in its broad support from eight Bishops, including a Bishop from Africa (where over five million United Methodist Christians reside), and a diverse set of leaders of constituencies within United Methodism in the U.S.  Even though there were already nine plans on the table for dividing the United Methodist denomination, this latest proposal (which now brings us to ten) may have the greatest chance of passing at the 2020 General Conference.


Q&A


What would this mean for the North Alabama Conference of the United Methodist Church?

Following the adjournment of the 2020 General Conference, annual conferences may vote to align with any such new Methodist denominations formed pursuant to the Protocol.

An annual conference could vote to disaffiliate with the expression of Methodism that wishes to redefine Christian marriage as being between two men or two women; and could then vote to affiliate with a new traditional, orthodox, Methodist denomination.  A vote of 20 percent or more at an annual conference session would be needed to have the disaffiliation vote, and a disaffiliation vote would have to pass by 57 percent. The disaffiliation vote deadline is July 1, 2021.


Do you believe it is likely for the
North Alabama Conference to disaffiliate with the present United Methodist Church, and affiliate with a new, traditionally orthodox, Methodist denomination?

While not conclusive, I do believe this is likely.  Clergy, Local Pastors and Lay-delegates will have a vote on this matter.  Our Annual Conference has voted in a traditional, orthodox direction, by a 2/3rds majority for many years.


What would this mean for Christ Church and her future?

If our Annual Conference votes to disaffiliate with the present expression of United Methodism, and then decides to join the new traditionally orthodox Methodist denomination, we are not required to have a vote. Christ Church would be a part of the new Methodist denomination by virtue of the vote of the majority of the Annual Conference.  

If our Annual Conference did not vote to join the new Methodist denomination, then the Council on Servant Ministries (our leadership body) would determine a threshold of a simple majority or two-thirds for the vote of the membership on whether to separate and join the new Methodist expression. Decisions about disaffiliation must be made by December 31, 2024.  A local church affiliating with another Methodist denomination “pursuant to the protocol” would keep its assets and liabilities.

Local churches which desire a different affiliation than its Annual Conference may conduct an affiliation vote to consider a different affiliation. If such a vote occurs, the church council (e.g., its Administrative Board or Council or its Leadership Board) shall determine a voting threshold of either a simple majority or two-thirds of those present and voting at a duly called church conference in order for the motion to opt for a different affiliation to be adopted. The vote on a motion to opt for a different affiliation shall occur in a church conference held not more than      7 60 days after the request is made by the church council. The church conference must be held in consultation with the District Superintendent who shall authorize such a church conference to be conducted. Decisions about affiliation by a local church must be made by December 31, 2024. If a local church does not vote, it remains a part of the Methodist denomination selected by its Annual Conference.

 

If Christ Church were to affiliate with the new Methodist denomination, are there benefits?

Yes.  There are many.

We would no longer be a part of the ongoing constitutional and theological crises that has cost the church millions of dollars, and untold hours of human capacity.  We would be a part of a denomination whose primary focus becomes making disciples for the transformation of the world.

Our apportionments paid to the denomination, which are in the tens of thousands of dollars and fund an outdated form of church hierarchy, would no longer exist.  This would free up large sums of cash flow for local and global mission, paying down debt, and general ministry.

The assets and property (the buildings and land Christ Church sits on) would no longer be owned by the denomination, but by Christ Church United Methodist.  The trust clause, found in the United Methodist Book of Discipline, would no longer exist. The trust clause, which was established with good intent over a hundred years ago, would no longer be misused as a modern tool of control.

We would join other like-minded Methodist Christians, and would thus experience a greater synergy in our task of making disciples.  “Best practices;” rooted in Wesleyan theology; are currently under development in six key areas for a future, new Methodist denomination:

 

  • Accountable Discipleship – identifying, developing and deploying effective models for disciple- making as an integral part of the ministry of local churches, and communicating the necessity of every Christ-follower embracing the call to be disciples and to be makers of disciples.
  • Church Multiplication – the establishment of new local churches or the launching of additional sites of existing churches particularly in communities where there is no witness to the historic Christian faith in the Wesleyan tradition and where existing churches are not reaching significant communities in a geographic area.
  • Church Revitalization – empowering existing churches to embrace ministries that will renew and restore the mission of the church for new generations and in communities experiencing significant changes.
  • Global Missional Partnerships – developing and deploying effective partnerships for local churches to be in ministry with one another globally across geographic boundaries to advance the Kingdom of God and reach people of diverse cultures with the love of Jesus.
  • Missional Ministry in the Margins – identifying and deploying effective models for local churches to be in ministry with the poor, marginalized, addicted, and recovering.
  • Ministry with Young People and Young Adults – addressing the challenge for local churches in reaching teens, shepherding them through the transition to adulthood, and engaging those who are navigating further education or entering the workforce so that they continue as committed Christ-followers.

 

If we chose to affiliate with a new Methodist denomination, would we still support United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR) and the United Methodist Children’s Home (UMCH)?

Yes!  Both of these entities are worthwhile ministries that are making a great impact!  


What happens to the pension plans of The United Methodist Church and the pension benefits of its clergy? 

The pension plans of The United Methodist Church will remain in place for all current clergy and lay employees affiliated with The United Methodist Church, regardless of the Methodist denomination under this Protocol with which they affiliate. The liability of Annual Conferences and local churches for pension benefits shall transfer with such entities to the Methodist denomination pursuant to the Protocol with which they affiliate.

 

What advice do you have in regard to next steps?

  • Pray (James 5:16).  Pray for your pastors, the church staff, our church family, our Annual Conference, and the entire denomination.  Pray for the “will of God to be done on earth as it is in heaven.”

 

  • Don’t believe everything you hear or read (1 John 4:1).  There are many writing and saying things through news and social media that are fabrications and not facts; some of which conflicts with Scripture or are mischaracterizations.  As a Christian, it is an imperative to be biblically discerning.

 

  • Do not move in fear (See 2 Timothy 1:7).  Realize that the Methodist Church has expressed multiple iterations throughout the course of her history (Methodist, Methodist Episcopal, United Methodist, Free Methodist, Nazarene, etc.)  As recent as 1968, we were simply The Methodist Church before merging with the Evangelical United Brethren.  In hindsight, history will demonstrate this merger was an experiment that, when blended with other factors, did not work.  Regardless, the church has demonstrated over time that she will continue to exist, even if the name changes.  We, as a people called Methodists, will have a future, no matter what.

 

  • Move in truth wed with grace (John 1:17).  While we hold to biblical truth, let us move in grace and compassion for all people.  We welcome people into our small groups and worship gatherings who are battling all types of struggles.  We have alcoholics, co-dependents, persons struggling with heterosexual temptations, and recovering Pharisees.  We also have same-sex attracted persons who are active in the life of Christ Church. Let us remember, in the midst of standing for biblical fidelity, to always operate in a spirit of love wed with the transforming power of the gospel offered to all persons.  Let’s move in truth wed with grace. That is what Jesus does. This is Who Jesus is.

 

  • Attend the January 25th Southeast Regional Gathering of United Methodist at Clearbranch United Methodist Church from 9:00 a.m. till 12:00 p.m.  The theme of this gathering is, Why the Best Days of Methodism are Ahead of Us, and will feature Dr. Chris Ritter as speaker.  The day will also feature Annual Conference delegation members from around the southeast sharing in an informative panel discussion.

 

  • Be mindful that God is up to something life-giving and new!!!  This phase of Methodist church history will serve to birth something that will touch the world in a powerful way.  I will be sharing more with you around all of this soon.

 

Remember, in all you do, you represent Christ and His church.  We do not want the church to be the focus of satire; but to be truly known as a people who glorify God, treasure Jesus Christ, love others, and make disciples of all peoples.  May God give us His grace to love well.  May God give us His grace to stand on His truth.  May God give us His grace to wed love and truth together in a manner that Christ is reflected well.  

See you this Sunday as we gather to worship at 8:15, 9:30 or 11:00 a.m.

For His renown,

Pastor Paul

 

 

Paul Lawler is the Lead-Pastor of Christ Church UMC.  He and his wife, MJ, have four children and one daughter-in-law.  In addition to serving as a pastor, Paul and his brother, Dallas area businessman Patrick Lawler, founded two Patricia B. Hammonds Homes for orphans at high risk for human trafficking in Thailand. The homes are operated through the international ministry of the Compassionate Hope Foundation. Paul also serves on the boards of The WellhouseNew Water Farms, and the East Lake Initiative. He often tweets Kingdom thoughts at @plawler111.

Don’t Miss Christmas

Don’t Miss Christmas

By Michael Bowman

 

After All

 

O God, you have caused this holy night to shine with the
brightness of the true Light: Grant that we, who have known
the mystery of that Light on earth, may also enjoy him
perfectly in heaven; wherewith you and the Holy Spirit he
lives and reigns, one God, in glory everlasting. Amen.
 
 
Here we are at the culmination of the chaotic and craziness that is our consumeristic holiday season as we know it. We have come to the day that we have been anticipating and singing about. The day that we have been frantically buying gifts and wrapping them so that they can be torn into this morning and possibly even forgotten about this afternoon. It is Christmas.
 
In the midst of the cultural craziness, we chose throughout Advent to slow down and to pay attention to all that was happening around us and within us. We stopped “doing” and we began “waiting.” We were, of course, eagerly anticipating Christ’s coming, remembering he has already come and that he is coming again. And after all our waiting, Christ has come.
 

So, pause. Do not miss it.

 

 

The Birth, According to…

 

In our Bibles, we are fortunate to have four different Gospel accounts of Jesus’ life. That is, four different narratives telling us about Jesus and the life he lived– all that he did and said. It is interesting, however, that only two of them actually give us an account of Jesus’ birth: Matthew and Luke. And even in these two gospel accounts, the birth narrative focuses more on those who actually took notice of the birth rather than the birth itself. 
 
This is significant. The authors want us to take notice of who it was that actually recognized that the Christ had come. Because it may not be exactly who we might have guessed. So who was it? Who were the ones who actually took notice that the Savior of the World had been born?
 
According to Luke, the only people who noticed were some shepherds sitting out in a field watching sheep do sheep things when an angel of the Lord showed up out of nowhere and began talking to them. Even if it was good news, this had to at least startle the shepherds. But then, as the angel told them about this baby that has been born, an entire angelic army appeared suddenly, shouting out, “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace among those whom he favors!” (Luke 2:14 NRSV)
So the shepherds looked at one another (probably picking their jaws up off the ground) and said together, “We got to go to Bethlehem and see what this is all about.” (My translation of Luke 2:15-16.)
 
In Matthew’s account, we jump from an angel of the Lord appearing to Joseph to some “wise men from the East” showing up in Jerusalem asking King Herod where this newborn “king of the Jews” is so that they may “pay him homage.” It needs to be noted that the word used in the Greek here for “homage” is translated throughout the New Testament as meaning to kneel or prostrate oneself in reverence or respect.
 

But who were these “wise men?”

 

 

We Three… Dudes?

 

 

These “wise men” or “magi” as most scholars agree are better referred to as astrologers. They were not kings, and there is no evidence that there were only three of them (don’t believe the Christmas carol.)

These men studied the stars, and in their studies, they had been led to believe that a great new leader had been born in Judea. Being “from the East,” these men were likely Gentiles. Fast forward in the story and we find these “wise men,” following a star (how’s that for a GPS?), arrived to see the newborn king, though he was no longer a newborn but a toddler close to the age of two. And as soon as they step into his presence, the men knelt down and worshipped Jesus, offering him gifts fit for a king. 
 
Now, why is it important we understand that in our two Gospel accounts that include a birth narrative, the only people who took notice of Jesus’ birth were some shepherds who were working a late shift and some Gentile star-gazers? 
 
Because seemingly everyone else missed it. 
 
Where were the priests? Where were the good, highly religious and ritually-pure folks? Where were those who never missed a prayer service? Where were those with “perfect attendance” in Sunday school? Honestly, where were the God-fearers? Where were those who knew their Scriptures, who memorized and followed their Torah? Do you mean to tell me that the ‘religious elite’ missed the birth of Jesus?
 

It can’t be more clear: they all missed it.

 

 

The Free Gift of Christmas

 

 

So, here is my plea for you (and me) this Christmas: let’s not miss it.
 
We know how chaotic this time of the year can be. We know how easy it can be to get swept up in the consumeristic cultural Christmas of our day. It is easy to even believe that Christmas is about gifts, receiving or giving, time with family or friends, or Santa Claus. It is easy to use the nostalgia that Christmas offers to escape the harsh and difficult realities in our daily lives. And all of this muddies the waters of what Christmas truly offers us. 
 
Christmas is a season of possibilities
 
In the middle of our distortions, God comes to us. At Christmas, we retell and remember the story of God coming unexpectedly as a baby born to a poor and lowly family…to a virgin and unwed mother…born homeless and born to die…so that the world might be made whole again. He came quietly, almost unnoticeably as we have seen, showing up in the middle of the everyday jumble and mess of life. His birth was easy to miss, even then.
 
May we not be those who miss it. The Creator of the universe, as Eugene Peterson translates the disciple John’s words, “became flesh and blood and moved into the neighborhood.” And with him came new possibilities for the dark world the moment he was born.
 
Christmas reveals that God comes for all people – those who are eagerly looking for him and even those who are not – offering new possibilities…offering new life. Light is now shining in the darkness, and the darkness did not and will not overcome it.
 
Jesus is here. Come now and adore Him.

 

 

Michael Bowman is the Student Minister at Christ Church UMC.  He is the grateful husband of Sara and dad to Grady. Michael earned his B.A. in Religious Studies from UT-Chattanooga, where he met Sara. He also holds a Master of Divinity with an emphasis in Church Planting from Asbury Theological Seminary. Michael enjoys spending time with Sara, running, good coffee, reading, playing basketball, and playing with their two dogs, Gus and Lily. As a good Memphis native, Michael is an avid Memphis Grizzlies fan.

Follow him on Twitter: @bichaelmowman

A Closer Look at Advent

By Michael Bowman

ADVENT… 

is the beginning of the Church year. It is our starting point.

Advent begins a six-month period of time where the Church focuses on and relives the story of Jesus.

 

Advent is a quiet season that invites every one of us to slow down. It is a season for fasting, for paying attention, for contemplation, and for preparation. It is a place in our American cultural calendars which comes just after Thanksgiving ends, and the world around us begins its frantic decorating, whirlwind of present-purchasing, and calendar-filling amounts of party-going. In the midst of all this, Advent offers us the opportunity to slow down and wait. But wait for what?

 

Each Advent we step back into the story of Jesus. We are reminded that the Savior of the world has come and He is coming again – by the way, Advent literally means “coming” or “arrival.” At Advent we wait with anticipation, with expectation, and we prepare for the coming of Jesus.

 

We remember that the Savior of the world came as a baby to a family that was not perfect, to a family like yours and mine that had its own scars and wounds that needed healing; families that, as my good friend Tom Fuerst once wrote, “only God could love.” (Fuerst, Underdogs and Outsiders)

 

Advent reminds us that our Savior loves being in the middle of all human activity, whether it be good or bad, clean or dirty, put together or falling apart, seeking redemption in each and every aspect of human life.

 

ADVENT IS A PARADOX 

Flannery O’Connor once wrote, “I think the Church is the only thing that can make our terrible world endurable and the only thing that makes the Church endurable is that it is somehow the Body of Christ and on that we feed.” Advent is meant to remind us that this is true, and it is a bit paradoxical. We make up this Body of Christ, yet we also make up this world. We are meant to be lights in a dark world, but often may only make things dimmer. And Advent is a season full of paradoxes.

 

John H. Westerhoff III has noted the paradoxes at play in Advent: “longing anticipation and patient watching; transforming the way we envision life and yet living prepared; waiting for what never seems to come and continuing in hopeful trust; desiring to give up control and opening ourselves to few possibilities for life.”

 

Even further, it offers a contradictory way of being in the midst of possibly our most chaotic and distracting season of life: the holidays.

 

As the world continues in its race of consuming more and doing more, with no end in sight, Advent invites us to try a different way. The holiday season brings with it an ever present reality of chaos and distraction. It brings with it bad memories, and reveals the hurts or wounds within our families or relationships. It throws in our faces false hopes and false joys with propositions of, “If you buy this you’ll be happy… if you get her this she will love you… if you spend time with those you love this holiday season then all the bad things in life will disappear…”

 

Advent reminds us of something more. Advent is a season where doing really isn’t allowed. We are not meant to “do.” During Advent, we are meant to “wait.” We wait and long for the coming of the One who will make all things new, who will wipe away every tear, who offers us real life (and life abundantly), who cares about our hopes and dreams, who truly sees us, truly knows us, and truly loves us simply for who we are. We can’t buy that like a present to fit perfectly under our will-trimmed tree. We can only wait.

 

Think about the paradox of Advent as good news. Jesus, the Savior of the world has come, and He is coming again.

 

THE INVITATION

Let me invite you, this Advent season, to slow down. Don’t give in to the chaos or the distractions. Find moments of silence throughout your day (for those of you like me, this sounds terrifying, so I get it.) Seek out moments of solitude where you can really reflect on what is going on within and around you.

 

I invite you this Advent season to be present – with yourself, with your surroundings, and with others. Pay attention. Pray. Meditate. Be vigilant and actively watch for Jesus. Listen to others around you really well. Be slow to speak. Slow down enough to get in touch with yourself again, with your hopes and dreams, your longings and desires. Take notice of these things.

 

Let us take this time to clean out the chaotic and disorderly parts of our endlessly busy lives and prepare for the coming of our Lord. Decorate. Be hospitable. Prepare for a party! Make way for coming of the Lord. The former things are passing a way, and all things are being made new.

 

Michael Bowman is the Student Minister at Christ Church UMC.  He is the grateful husband to Sara and dad to Grady. Michael earned his B.A. in Religious Studies from UT-Chattanooga, where he met Sara. He also holds a Master of Divinity with an emphasis in Church Planting from Asbury Theological Seminary. Michael enjoys spending time with Sara, running, good coffee, reading, playing basketball, and playing with their two dogs, Gus and Lily. As a good Memphis native, Michael is an avid Memphis Grizzlies fan.

Follow him on Twitter: @bichaelmowman