Stay in Love With God

Bishop Rueben Job wrote a book, “Three Simple Rules”, based on the teachings of John Wesley (father of Methodism): Do no harm, Do good, Stay in love with God.

The “Three Simple Rules” are discipleship pathways based on the teachings of Jesus. In Luke’s account of Jesus’ teaching on judging others (Luke 6:37-42), we see with new eyes, and hear with new ears, what it means to “stay in love with God.”

Judgment, we have convinced ourselves, is a way for us to gain superior moral footing. However, in reality, it is a way to marginalize those unlike us, and disenfranchise others based on stereotypes, accusation, rumors, and perception. Consequently, we all judge others, but yet we dislike being judged.

If we’re to “stay in love with God” we will embrace God’s call to love as we’ve been loved. Bishop Job writes:
“The question Jesus asked of Peter in John 21:15ff, “Do you love me?”reveals a great deal about the essentials of our relationship with God. Three times Jesus asked, “Do you love me?” and three times Peter answered in the affirmative. Staying in love with God was the primary issue of a faithful life then, and it is today. For from such a life of love for God will flow the goodness and love of God to the world.” (p.57)

Practicing Radical Hospitality moves me away from a life of exclusion to a life of embracing. Embracing the stranger, the disenfranchised, the marginalized, the lonely, and the vulnerable in our midst, is the way of love; and a way of “staying in love with God”! In love with God, there’s no room for judgmentalism and condemnation.

I look forward to seeing you in church as we strive to stay in love with God by embracing God’s call to radical hospitality! Invite a friend, relative, acquaintance, or neighbor to join you!

In Christ,
Doug

Welcoming the Other

Over the course of my ministry I’ve had the opportunity to visit a lot of churches, and have been involved in numerous conversations with regard to the identity and character of a particular faith community.  Inevitably I would hear: “we are a friendly church”  or, “we are an inviting and welcoming church”, only to find out through a visit on Sunday morning: welcoming, inviting, and friendly to those they know, yes.  Welcoming, inviting, and friendly to the stranger in their midst, well, not so much!

Radical Hospitality, the kind of hospitality God calls us to, is a hospitality that goes beyond just being, nice.  As followers of Christ radical hospitality is extended through our actions: “If you’ve done it to the least of these brothers and sisters, you’ve done it to me” (Matthew 25:40); and in our prayers: “But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you” (Matthew 5:44).  Radical Hospitality involves embracing diversity – the kind of diversity we learned through song as a child:  Red and yellow black and white all are precious in His sight; Jesus loves the little children of the world!  As followers of Christ we are to, as St. Benedict puts it: “Welcome the other”!

The question we should always be asking ourselves (individually and as a community of faith) is are we are practicing the hospitality of Jesus?  Answering this question starts by embracing our diversity.  Father Daniel Homan and Lonni Collins Pratt in their book, Radical Hospitality: Benedict’s Way of Love, write:

“The hardest thing about all these people is their absolute otherliness, which cannot be tamed or ignored.  They are going to remain unlike us.  We are not going to understand them.  We should celebrate this.  We need them to be different from us.  It fits in the way the universe has been designed.” (p.85)

Hyde Park Community United Methodist Church is a diverse community of faith; and God is calling us to widen our circle further.  I look forward to serving in ministry with you as we partner with God to bring His “kingdom on earth, as it is in heaven”.  See you in church!

In Christ,
Doug

 

Can’t or Won’t?

Hope is essential to a healthy life. Hope is the light at the end of the tunnel. Hope is the breaking of the morning dawn dispelling the dark of night. Hope is the fuel that powers us through difficult times. Hope sustains when there is very little to hang on to.

However, one of the great enemies of hope is a small but destructive word: “Can’t”; one small but destructive phrase: “I can not”! Chuck Swindoll in his book: “Wisdom For The Way” writes: “Can’t and won’t. Christians need to be very careful which one they choose. It seems that we prefer to use “can’t.”

“I just can’t get along with my wife.”
“My husband and I can’t communicate.”
“I just can’t discipline the kids as I should.”
“I just can’t give up the affair I’m having.”
“I can’t stop overeating.”
“I can’t find time to pray.”

Any Christian who takes the Bible seriously will have to agree the word here really should be “won’t”. Why? Because we have been given the power, the ability to overcome. . . . We’re really saying “I won’t,” because we don’t choose to say “With the help of God, I will!” (p.21)

The Psalmist helps us remember that God is a God of new life, and new beginnings. Paul reminds us: all things are possible in Christ Jesus; and, hope will not disappoint us. Indeed, one of the strands that hold the Bible together from Genesis to Revelation is Hope.

The writers of the Psalms encourage us to embrace the hope that is ours in our God. The Psalmist proclaims that God: “Turned my mourning into dancing; you have taken off my sackcloth and clothed me with joy.” (Ps 30:11)  Embracing hope, God renews and re-orients life! May God’s blessings abound as we allow ourselves to be filled by the Holy Spirit, filled with hope!
In Christ,

Doug

Where’ s God When It Hurts

The Psalmists wrote often of their disappointment in God in the midst of their struggles, discouragement, and suffering. Some write with out-right anger and hostility that God would “forget” them. Others write about the anguish in trying to find their way in a world where God seems absent; and so it is in the 21st century.

We encounter our own struggles, agony, pain, and suffering in life; and like our brothers and sisters of ancient Israel we ask: “Where’s God?” Philip Yancey in his book, “Where is God When it Hurts?” writes:

“Much of the suffering on our planet has come about because of two principles that God built into creation: a physical world that runs according to consistent natural laws, and human freedom. . . . Where is God when it hurts? He is in us – not in the things that hurt – helping to transform bad into good. We can safely say that God can bring good out of evil; we cannot say that God brings about the evil in hopes of producing good.” (p.65 and 111)

God is not a God who brings suffering our way as some cosmic test of faith and obedience, nor is God a God who delights in our suffering, waiting for God’s children to cry out for help. Where’s God when it Hurts? God is present, actively seeking ways to help turn our attention to God, seek God’s strength, and live in God’s hope; as Paul puts it, “hope will not disappoint us.” Jesus puts it this way: “ Neither this man nor his parents sinned; he was born blind so that God’s works might be revealed in him.” (John 9:3)

Where’s God when it hurts? God is present in the community of faith that reaches out to bring healing and hope to the broken, disenfranchised, and distressed. Philip Yancey writes, “I believe God has given the church a mandate of representing his love to a suffering world. We usually think of the problem of pain as a question we ask of God, but it is also a question He asks of us. How do we respond to hurting people?” (p.10) As the community of faith partners with God we participate with God in healing a broken world.

I look forward to the days (years) ahead, sharing in ministry with you, as together we partner with God to bring healing and wholeness where pain and suffering overwhelm and distort the lives of God’s children!

In Christ,
Doug

How Does This Work?

A core value of Cathy’s and mine is communication and transparency.  One of the questions we have been asked more than once is how does the Co-Senior Pastor model work?  What follows is my attempt at a broad stroke overview.

Preaching:  As a rule Cathy and I will rotate preaching between the Grace Campus, and the Downtown Campus (every other week).   In this time of defining what it means to be One Church – Two Campuses, we believe it a priority for the Senior Pastors to be visible, in the pulpit, in both places.

Responsibilities:   Cathy and I will bring Senior Pastor Leadership according to the areas of our giftedness.  For example:

Servant Leadership Board (SLB)– Both Cathy and I will bring leadership and work with the Executive Team (Chair, Vice Chair, and Director of Administration) on meeting agenda and schedule.  With regard to the specific teams on the SLB, Senior Pastor leadership will be as follows:

Leadership Development: Cathy
Communication Team: Doug
Visioning Team: Cathy
Personnel Team: Cathy and Doug
Audit Team: Doug
Property Team: Doug
Finance Team: Doug

Equipping Team – Cathy and I will lead, and supervise, the following areas/individuals:
Doug: Director of Administration, and the Director of Communication
Cathy: Director of Education, and the Director of Congregational Care

Additional Areas of oversight:
Doug: Community Ministry and Global Outreach
Cathy: Staff Development, Worship, And New Member Assimilation

This is the “big picture” view, please let either Cathy or I know if you have any questions.  We are excited to be a part of the family called Hyde Park Community, and we look forward to serving in ministry with you!

In Christ,
Doug

 

24/7 JOY

Joy versus Happiness . . .

In today’s world we’ve come to confuse happiness and joy, and we need to be continually reminded that there is a difference.  I’ve come to appreciate and embrace the following distinction:  Happiness is dependent upon external things; Joy is internal.

My “happiness” is dependent on my circumstances. How “happy” I am is dependent on what I am experiencing in my life.  Thus, my external encounters shape, and form, my happiness.

My Joy in life comes from within; is present in spite of what is externally happening to me.  My Joy is a condition of my heart, and reflection of my soul, which is why the Psalmist proclaims: “Create in me a clean heart O God, and renew a right spirit within me.”  (Ps. 51:10)!  Joy is a gift of God, which allows us to live above our circumstances and not under them.  That’s why Nehemiah proclaims: “Do not grieve, for thejoyoftheLord is your strength.” (Nehemiah 8:10b)

Consequently, my joy is not dependent on my happiness, but the depth of my joy can alter the level of my happiness.  That’s why John Wesley (founding father of Methodism) can write:

“The sons and daughters of God are able in a sense to laugh at violence when it comes – to laugh at economic hardship, pain, hell, and the grave.  For they are already acquainted with the One who finally holds the keys of Death and Death’s domain.” (John Wesley’s Little Instruction Book, p.107)

We are beginning a six-week sermon series based on Paul’s letter to the Philippians, “24/7 Joy”.  Philippians has come to be known as “The Book of Joy”, because despite the hardships, disappointments, and discouragement Paul and the Christian community are facing, they refuse to allow the external circumstances of life rob them of their joy, which is found in, and empowered through, their relationship with God, and the anointing of God’s spirit!

I look forward to walking with you through the book of Philippians as we learn how to “live above our circumstances”.  Invite a friend, relative, acquaintance, or neighbor to join you in the coming weeks as we embrace what it means to move beyond happiness and possess an always everywhere, and at all times Joy!

Love in Christ,

Pastor Doug

 

Plug In to the Power!

Luke tells us in the second chapter of Acts about the day God anointed the disciples and all those gathered in Jerusalem on Pentecost: the people were “Amazed and Perplexed”.  To this day, our experience of God’s “Holy Spirit anointing” is both “Amazing and Perplexing”!

Because we live in a world that demands an explanation for everything, we’re perplexed when the outpouring of God’s Spirit moves us in ways that cannot be explained.  Because we live in a culture that teaches individualism, and self-reliance, we’re perplexed when we experience the anointing of the Spirit of our living God that moves us to consider the greater good, and embrace the power of community! And yet we stand amazed!  Amazed at the joy that is ours when we allow ourselves to receive what God has to give.  Amazed at the abundant life we possess when God’s spirit moves in and through us.

This Sunday is Pentecost Sunday, the day God anointed God’s people with His Spirit, and the church was born!  Pentecost, a day of new beginnings and fresh starts; a day of empowerment, clarity, and direction; a day when God’s people were equipped with what they needed in order to go the places God was leading.

As we celebrate the day of Pentecost this Sunday, I’m reminded of God’s words in Isaiah: “See, I am doing a newthing! Now it springs up” (Isaiah 43:19a).   God invites us to “Plug Into His Power”!

It is comforting, to me, that on the day of Pentecost, Cathy and I come to Hyde Park.  These are Amazing and Perplexing times, but make no mistake about it, God is “doing a new thing!  Now it springs up”.

Hyde Park Community UMC has an amazing and storied history.  A history filled with persons, in love with God, willing to receive the outpouring of God’s spirit, and move beyond their comfort zone in order to partner with God to bring God’s kingdom on earth, as it is in heaven.  Hyde Park Community UMC has been a community of grace, love and mercy, to the community in which God has placed it; a community amazed by God’s refreshing power!  It’s to this community of faith Cathy and I come, and with joy anticipate making the journey with you.

God has led Hyde Park Community UMC in powerful, and beautiful ways in the past; and God is “doing a new thing; now it springs up” as we move into the future!  Come Holy Spirit come; kindle in us the fire of your love!

In Christ,

Pastor Doug