Category Archives: Discipleship

I Believe….

I am in the third week on a sermon series in Transformation Worship at First UMC Cedar Falls called “I Believe…”  It is a sermon series based on the outline of doctrines taught in the Apostles’ Creed.  (If you want to remind yourself of the content of the creed click on the tab “ecumenical creeds” at the top of my blog.)  The series is in a response to a request that I preach about basic Christian beliefs.  I cannot think of a simpler easier to understand summary than the Apostles’ Creed.

A lot of Christians do not realize that in the same time frame in which the ecumenical creeds were being formulated to answer doctrinal issues of the day the church was also deciding which books would end up in the canon.  The canon is the list of books which are found in the Bible.  In particular the Nicene Creed and issues around the incarnation of Christ were very much a part of the discussion at that time.

The canon didn’t just drop out of the sky.  The Church chose books which were in use of the church, were believed to have Apostolic authorship or connections, and which taught the faith of Jesus Christ as taught by the church, Christ, and his Apostles.

The Discipline of the United Methodist Church declares that the scriptures are the primary source for our doctrine and that we utilize scripture, tradition, experience, and reason as we work out our faith life together.  It is important that we have these bedrock teachings on which to give a basic foundation to our faith.   Certainly there is a lot of room for differences of viewpoint and understanding.  But there needs to be a basic outline of agreement which defines what it means to be Christian just as the Articles of Religion and the Confession of Faith of the EUB outline for us what it means to be United Methodists.

I believe that these faith statements are vital because connect us with the historical church, they remind us of the priorities of faith of the early church, and they give us a framework on which to begin the difficult and important task of Biblical interpretation.

In the coming weeks I will be preaching about Christ’s death and resurrection, the Holy Spirit, what it means to be part of the holy catholic church, and finally the eternal life which we can all experience through the love and grace of Christ.

While someone may think that a sermon series of basic Christian doctrine could be dull, it should not be.  We should be excited to talk about what we believe and how it has changed and is changing our lives!

I Believe!

Finding a Passion for Holy Living!

Right now I’m in the process of taking a course on United Methodist History.  I’m currently reading about the early years of John and Charles Wesley’s ministries.  And, though I’ve read about them before, I am again struck with John Wesley’s passion and drive to seek to live a holy Christian life.  His careful journaling of his daily activities including his triumphs and his failures show us a man who to the very fiber of his being wants to be what God wants and created him to be.

I am not yet to the part of Wesley’s experience where his “heart is strangely warmed.”  And this is before Wesley has developed his understanding of grace, particularly Prevenient Grace.   So I know that he is in the early stages of his spiritual development.  But I am reminded also that another reformer, Martin Luther, was also very concerned with pleasing God and holy living.

And it makes me ask the question, where has our passion gone for seeking to be a holy and set apart people as Christians?  Some Christians seem to focus on the moment of justification and once they feel like they’ve had a justifying experience with God they feel like they are “saved” and no longer have to worry about God stuff.

In other words we’ve turned being a Christian into a transaction or a commodity.  Much of our Christian culture tends to think of salvation as something in the past.  And this thinking of our faith as a past thing kills any desire for holy living.

Others become discouraged and believe deep down that God really can’t change them.  They have missed the gospel message that what God is about isn’t a transaction or a done deal in the past but about making us into followers/disciples of Jesus Christ.  We are to be a community growing and learning in God’s grace.

But we can grow in God’s grace because God provides us, as Wesley called them, omeans of grace.

By means of grace Wesley meant “By means of grace I understand outward signs words or actions ordained of God and appointed for this end to be the ordinary channels whereby he might convey to men preventing justifying or sanctifying grace.”  (Sermon XVI Means of Grace.)

He listed as ordinary means of grace prayer, searching the scriptures, and receiving the Lord’s Supper, and healthy living.  He also lists baptism, Christian conferencing, and works of mercy.

As Christians we should be attending daily to our prayer lives, reading, study, and hearing sermons from the Bible, participating in the sacramental life of the church, ministry together, and doing good to and for others in the name of Jesus.

The Christian life isn’t a spectator sport.  It isn’t a club we join to then sit on the sidelines.  As one of the recent UMC emphasis called “Rethink Church” says we should think of church not as a noun but as a verb.

We need to recapture and re-emphasize John Wesley’s focus on holy living, through both personal and social holiness.  It isn’t enough to just become a Christian any more than it is just enough to be born.  We must have a passion for growth, maturity, and change.  It are to seek after the goal of being made perfect in love.

Would that we would all recapture the passion of the reformers for not just knowing Christianity in our heads but living faith of Jesus Christ in our hearts and with our hands!

 

Things Change, Things Stay the Same

Out in front of my house, one of First UMC’s parsonages, I see a freshly paved street.  The road crew for Cedar Falls is near completing new curbs and pavement for the street between my house and the church.  On one hand it is a completely new street.  They tore out the old curbs, they put in new gravel, the poured new asphalt.  It is brand new, not even striped yet.  But on the other hand it is still a street and still has the same purpose of any street.

The same is true with worship and our new Transformation Worship Service.  Transformation, the contemporary worship experience at First United Methodist Church, is in a new location.  And even that location is going to begin going through some exciting changes.  The first of these is that in the next several weeks construction will begin on a new stage and storage facilities for Scott Hall (our worship venue) which will provide the Transformation experience with a new permanent central stage for the Praise Band and for preaching and leading worship.

In preparation for making room for construction we’ll be moving our current portable stage to another part of the room changing the shape of our worship space yet again.   We are also working in different ways to update our worship experience, work on the logistics of a new service location, and seeking to figure out how we can make our worship one that helps us to focus on our relationship with God through Jesus Christ.

But, what we are doing is still worshipping God.  We will still be singing, we will still be praying, we will stil be reading the scriptures, and we will still be sharing in the sacraments.   So while Contemporary worship has stylistic elements that are different from our two traditional worship opportunities we still have the same purpose we have always of seeing that, as the song says, we see Jesus lifted high!

So that effects how we change and how we don’t change.  When we make changes in the coming months it will be for the purpose of lifting up the faith of Jesus Christ, helping us worship God, helping us grow in our faith as Christians, and helping us to leave worship to go out into the world to serve others in the name of Christ!  Changes won’t be willy nilly or just change for the sake of change.  But worship change has to match the purpose of making disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world!

A Year of Change

The only constant in the world is change.  But this has certainly been an exciting year of change for my family and I.  It has been a year and a week since I first starting checking into the possibility of transferring my ordination to the United Methodist Church.  It was something that had been in the back of my mind and my heart for a long time.  And finally life I allowed myself to take a step out in a new direction.  During that time I’ve been blessed to receive appointment to Cedar Falls First United Methodist.  I began in July and I feel really blest to be here!

I am enjoying the challenges of living in a new community, being at a new church and getting to know a new denominational family.  Shortly I will begin course work on a course from the General Board of Higher Education and Ministry on United Methodist history.  Following that I will take courses in UMC doctrine and UMC polity.  I’ll be continuing to work with the Board of Ordained Ministry to complete my transfer of orders as I serve here in Cedar Falls.

At the same time my wife and I have become empty nesters as our daughter transferred from DMACC to Iowa State University.  We have all be making that adjustment, and I’m proud of how well she is doing in Ames!

So often we are afraid of change, avoid change, try to hold change back.  Yet change is a part of life, ministry, and following our Lord and Savior.  As I’ve said before we need to embrace change!  And we do so we can embrace to miraculous activities of God in a world that God is working to change and grow for the better.

We Must Be Different!

Much of what goes on in our world today is about getting our way, having what we want, working for the good of me and mine.  But Christians are called to be different!

My heart has been so grieved at the continued coverage of the Florida church that is planning to burn copies of the Qur’an this Saturday.  It hurts me deeply to see even this small group of Christians miss the message of Christ by so very much!

I very much appreciated the words of Rev. Steve Braudt, at last nights Ignition Worship Experience.  He reminded all of us that “God loves everybody.”  All of us are created in the image of God.  All of us are God’s children and Christ died for all of us.  He didn’t just die for some of us.  He died for ALL of us!

Jesus Christ always reached out other with love, grace, compassion, and patience.  Jesus never never preached hatred of those who are different.  And ultimately he calls on us as Christians to be very different than the world.  He called on us to be unconditionally welcoming, unconditionally loving, unconditionally compassionate, and unconditionally merciful.

The hate that is being preach in the act of this small misguided church is NOT of God.  It is not from the God of the Bible and not from the Father of Jesus Christ.

“Those who say, ‘I love God’, and hate their brothers or sisters, are liars; for those who do not love a brother or sister whom they have seen, cannot love God whom they have not seen.” 1 John 4:20.

May God’s love for this whole world cause each of us to act with love towards everyone we meet, no matter who they are.