Seeking Deeper Discipleship

Seeking Deeper Discipleship

I teach two Bible studies each week. It is really the same Bible study that is just offered at different times, so more people can engage the Scriptures and our understanding of faith. Teaching is not something I thought I would enjoy when I entered ministry, but it has become one of my favorite things that I do each week.

What I love about Bible study with other members of the church is that I get to gather with different groups of people to talk about faith, life, and contemplate upon what does it mean to the love the Lord and live for God. I love that part of the life of faith!

One of my ministry principles when it comes to teaching is that we should not be afraid to wrestle with difficult and hard things about faith and life. I believe this leads us to a deeper faith, and discipleship, because it moves us from just accepting something at face value and to, truly, engage what it is that we believe about God, humanity, and the life of faith.

What is involved in not being afraid to deal with difficult and hard things about life and faith? Continue reading “Seeking Deeper Discipleship”

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Got Faith?

Got Faith?

Over the last four months or so, we’ve gotten the chance to get to know one another. Don’t worry, I’m not going to ask any pop quiz questions. Those were always terrifying for me in school.

Part of that getting to know each other process as allowed you to learn some things about me. For me, part of that has been for you to get to know some things about me, my life, as well as examine who God calls us to be through these passages that we’ve looked at together. You know I like to laugh at bad jokes and, yes, I don’t use my notes when I preach. It’s not that big of a deal.

You have seen a little bit of who I am as a pastor and leader. That is important for you to listen to, because it is easy to try to fit a new pastor into a predetermined box that is comfortable for us to understand than to pay attention to who is this pastor and why did God send them here. So, we’ve looked at some passages, and admittedly, many of them have been difficult. They are difficult, because I believe the faith in Christ calls us to engage the difficult in a way that leads to deep discipleship. They are difficult, as well, because it gives you a chance to know me and where I believe God might be leading us.

Because deep down we are all still asking this question: Who am I? That is a deeper question that goes beyond my love for bad dad jokes, sarcasm, and presidential history. It goes beyond getting to know my family, Abbi, Noah, and, now, Little Fry. It goes beyond stories about my life and little struggles. It is the deeper question of what is this pastor really about? Continue reading “Got Faith?”

Grace for All

Grace for All

Throughout my ministry, I’ve been blessed with mentors who have helped me to understand my role and the life of a pastor. These have been friends, colleagues, and mentors, both inside and outside the Wesleyan tradition, who have taken me under their arms, and helped me to see something I might not have on my own. They gave me the necessary wisdom I needed to care and serve God and others.

No matter your career of choice, we can probably all think of a mentor or friend who has helped us to navigate our jobs or the challenges of life. We need those friends to help us, to inspire us, and to keep us focus on what is before us.

That is exactly what Paul is doing in our text, this morning, from 1 Timothy 1:12-17. We’re jumping into this letter that is equal parts fascinating and controversial. It is a difficult letter to read, because we struggle with both its content and context. 1 Timothy, along with 2 Timothy and Titus, make up what we call the Pastoral Epistles. These books are a collection of letters where Paul writes the two individuals who made up the next generation of church leaders to encourage them in their ministry. Continue reading “Grace for All”

Is it Worth It?

Is it Worth It?

One of the hardest decisions I ever had to make was the one we are living into currently. Moving back to West Virginia was never a no-brainer discussion for myself or my family.

We were established in Kentucky. I was ordained in Kentucky and was becoming confident in my leadership and place within the structures there. Abbi and Noah, though familiar with West Virginia, had never lived here. To be honest it was a decision we went back and forth on for months, even going as far as submitting a letter to turn down the opportunity to come home.

What helped me to think through the decision was to make a list. Do you ever do that? Sometimes I’ll get out a sheet of paper, or just think it through in my head, and consider the positives and negatives of a certain decision. That process helps me to think through all of my options before making a major decision. It is a process that helps me to weigh the cost.

I wonder, did you do something like that before committing yourself to being a disciple of Jesus Christ? Before you said yes to following Jesus, did you take time to consider what this life meant, what was being asked of you as a follower of Jesus Christ, and truly wrestle with if you were willing to commit ourselves to this life? A disciple of Jesus Christ is someone who makes a commitment to follow Jesus and who seeks to live out the desires Christ places upon us. Did you consider what that meant and its implications for your life? Continue reading “Is it Worth It?”

The Open Table

The Open Table

Do you know what the most important piece of furniture in our homes might be? No, it is not the TV stand or the recliner. The most important piece of furniture in our homes signifies more than what we often recognize it is capable of doing. I am thinking of the table extender.

This great and important piece of furniture is often hidden away in some closet. Why do I feel like it is the most important piece of furniture that we own? Why would I say something that seems outlandish? It is hidden away and, sometimes in our home, it is the thing that allows Abbi to extend her desk, since she works from home and at the dining room table. Yet it is a piece of furniture that allows us to be hospitable and invite people into our homes and lives.

When the table extender comes out, it often means we are preparing to host a large feast and need the extra space. Perhaps some of you will need it tomorrow for your Labor Day celebrations. We like to host people in our homes and celebrate with food and good conversations. The table extender comes out when the family comes in for the holidays, when friends have come over for a special meal, or some other moment when we are hosting people. The table extender is a physical representation of how we have made room in our lives for people to join us in fellowship and relationship.

I wonder what it would look like if the kingdom of God had a table extender. Have you ever wondered about that? I’ll be honest, it is something that has been on my mind as we reflect upon our passage from Luke 14:7-14. If the table extenders from our dining room tables are a metaphor for how we like to entertain and welcome people into our homes, what would a table extender look like in the kingdom of God? Perhaps it’s more important that we should ask, who would God welcome to dine with him at his table? Continue reading “The Open Table”

Healers Wanted

Healers Wanted

One of the things I have appreciated throughout my ministry is how many of you are amazed that I can stand up here without looking at my notes. Please know that this doesn’t make me special – many pastors do not bring their notes with them into the pulpit or what I call “the Holy Circle” – but it is part of what makes me who I am.

There is a lot of work that goes into this 20-25-minute time of deep discipleship each week. In fact, a good rule of thumb is that for every minute of a sermon, there is about 30-60 minutes of prep. That includes prayer, studying, reflecting, writing, and, of course, banging my head against the wall.

Among my favorite aspects of sermon prep is examining the context surrounding a specific passage. By context, I mean looking at what takes place within the story beyond just the words written on the page. We forget sometimes that the Bible was written in real time, focusing on real people, who lived in real space. Studying the situations, history, and ways someone would write at the time helps us to understand more about what is going on in a verse or passage of Scripture. Continue reading “Healers Wanted”

Living Our Commitments

Living Our Commitments

One of the things I love about introducing myself to a new congregation is that it gives you an opportunity to reflect on what is important to you. Each congregation wants to learn what I focus on, what is important to me in ministry, and where I believe God is leading us. That is important for the congregation to live into, but it is also important for me, as a pastor and follower of Christ, to reflect on and share.

There are many things that I value and hold as important in ministry. Among those is my belief that living sacramentally enables us to grow as faithful disciples of Jesus Christ. This is more than just making sure that the church is celebrating communion and baptism. It is about living into their meaning and how they apply to our spiritual lives.

At our baptism, whether as an infant or an adult, we make a commitment to the witness of Christ, the church, and our fellowship with one another. Baptism is about entering into a covenant with God and other believers where we are identifying ourselves with the promises of God and desiring to live into a transformed life in Christ’s love.

In the United Methodist Church, we make a promise to be faithful to God as a response to God’s grace at work in our lives and desire to share God’s love in the world. That promise is lived out in specific ways through our prayers, presence, gifts, service, and witness.

What do those commitments mean? How do we live them out? Continue reading “Living Our Commitments”